(The spoken version shall take precedence)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to address you today.
In 2018 I had the honour to inaugurate the first Solutions Summit in Stockholm. Now, it is my great pleasure to launch the second Solutions Summit.
Due to COVID-19, this Summit will be a series of meetings that will culminate next summer in the Leaders’ Event, announcing new commitments and collective actions.
I accepted this invitation because, despite all the great work being accomplished on global, national and local levels, I remain deeply concerned about the development regarding children’s wellbeing.
I founded the World Childhood Foundation in 1999 to fight child sexual abuse and exploitation. Already then - two decades ago – we saw that the Internet was being used to exploit children. But, sadly, despite twenty years of hard work, we cannot rest on our laurels.
Instead, we see a significant increase in harm being done to children online.
Today, most children in the Developed World and many children in Developing Countries spend as much of their day online as offline. And in both the digital and the physical worlds, children are under assault:
Child Sexual Abuse images and videos are flooding the Internet.
In 2020, the number of Child Sexual Abuse images is expected to double from a horrendous 70 million reported by tech companies in 2019.
And this is happening at the very moment when the COVID-19 pandemic is driving children to spend even more time online.
Please don’t get me wrong: Digital technology and the internet provide great opportunities for learning, entertainment and socializing. However, we also need to acknowledge that without adequate protective measures, children are at heightened risk of abuse. And ensuring their safety – online as well as offline - is our responsibility, as adults. Children need to know that we will protect them – not their abusers.
Childhood is a proud Commissioner of the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development and a board member of the Global Partnership. Together with partners like ITU, UNICEF, WHO and the Global Partnership, we are hard at work on making internet safer for children:
This year, Childhood and I had the privilege to launch the ITU’s new Child Online Protection guidelines.
I also had the opportunity to speak at the SAMENA Council Leadership Summit and at the High Level UNGA meeting.
Most recently, with Childhood Brazil, ITU and UNESCO, we launched the Broadband Commission’s Child Online Safety report.
And a year ago, in the pre-COVID-era, His Majesty and I convened a roundtable of experts to explore how technology and the wonders of Artificial Intelligence might be used to catalyse child safety online.
I frequently ask myself: Are we doing enough to stop the universal epidemic of child abuse? Do we invest enough resources to stop the tsunami of child abuse on- and offline?
Dear friends, I am afraid that the answer is “no”. We need to do more, much more.
However, the good news is that now we know what to do:
Above all, we need to continue to invest in the development of better, more impactful and scalable solutions. This is the reason that the End Violence Fund needs more resources. At the same time, thanks to the Global Partnership and its 500 members and 30 pathfinder countries, we have evidence of what really works, and how we can collectively make a difference in millions of children’s lives.
Ladies and gentlemen: ending violence against children is not just a good cause. It is a promise, one that we have made to our children and ourselves.
In 2015, all UN member states committed to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against children – by 2030.
So, with only 10 years to go until deadline:
Let us keep our promise.
Let us make this a decade of action.
Let us step up our commitments and our investments.
So that every child can have a childhood free from violence, and that no child is left behind.
I hereby declare the second Solutions Summit’s Series open.