HM The Queen's speech at UN High Level Meeting on Digital Cooperation
(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It was with great pleasure that I accepted the invitation to address you. I wanted to share with you my deep concern about the growing threats to children and youth online.
While connectivity is unquestionably the hidden hero of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing access to health care, online education, and crucial commodities, I am horrified by the significant increase during COVID-19 in Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) online.
I founded Childhood Foundation in 1999 to use my position to help fight sexual violence against children. Already then, the Internet was used to exploit children and we invested in new technology to detect CSAM. Unfortunately, CSAM continues to flood the Internet at an unprecedented scale, with more than 70 million images reported by tech companies last year alone! We need new solutions which is why, last November, His Majesty and I convened a roundtable of experts on Artificial Intelligence and Child Sexual Abuse.
Ladies and gentlemen, it isn’t easy for a Queen to speak about sexually abused children. I have been doing it for the last two decades. I have to admit that I, too, often feel pessimistic about the prospects of progress. And yet, because of my grandchildren and yours, I know I have to continue.
But how do we know if we are making progress?
Together with The Economist Intelligence Unit, Childhood took the initiative to develop the first ever benchmarking tool to measure 60 countries’ response to Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. Not surprisingly, we found that governments and tech companies can do much more to protect children online.
I want every child and youth to have access to the benefits connectivity brings … but in a safe way. The new Manifesto of the UN Broadband Commission calls for a Global Connectivity Goal and advocates for the UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation as a key driver for the achievement of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. But leaving no one offline means ensuring that everyone is safe online. Especially children.
Childhood, a Commissioner of the UN Broadband Commission, together with partners like ITU, UNICEF, WHO and the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, is leading the work on making the Internet safer for children. Last year, the UN Broadband Commission launched the Child Online Safety Report with actionable recommendations and, at the same time, launched the Universal Child Online Safety Declaration. This year, we had the privilege of launching on Zoom the new 2020 ITU Child Online Protection guidelines.
Dear friends, I am proud that my foundation, Childhood, is a recognized player in all these global initiatives. But I wish these initiatives had even more global attention, and that governments as well as the private sector would prioritize child online safety.
There is an important maxim in business: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” I am grateful to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for doing the right thing and launching the Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. This roadmap highlights the importance of a safe and secure Internet for all … and, in particular, for the most vulnerable members of society, our children.
Ladies and gentlemen, the children in the images and videos online are not just statistics. They are real children being abused by real adults. In a real world!
These children need and deserve our protection.