Global Missing Children Research

About the Research Initiative

All children have the right to live without fear of abduction and free from sexual abuse and exploitation. Every child deserves a safe childhood where they are able to grow into healthy and successful adults. Yet, every day, across the globe, children go missing. They may be victims of family or non-family abductions, runaways, or missing for unknown reasons. While the majority of children who are reported missing return on their own after a short period of time, the longer a child is missing, the more vulnerable he or she becomes. The threat of exposure to high-risk activities such as substance misuse, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and even the risk of death, can increase the longer a child is missing. The issue of missing and abducted children is complex and multi-faceted. It is a global issue lacking a global response.

In response to this lack of legislation and information, ICMEC initiated a series of regional reports assessing the current mechanisms that exist for missing children around the world. As many countries do not have specific laws addressing missing children, we are looking more in depth at national strategies and country-specific mechanisms addressing missing and abducted children. Through this research initiative, we are analyzing countries’ policies and practices, identifying trends and themes concerning child protection and exploitation in the region, and offering broad recommendations for addressing the issue of missing children that can be integrated into existing national and regional approaches to child protection.

The first report in the series, Missing Children in Central America: Research of Practices and Legislation on Prevention and Recovery, was published in October 2011 in collaboration with the UNICEF Latin America and Caribbean Office. It has been used by law enforcement and civil society organizations in Central America to develop and strengthen mechanisms related to missing children. In July 2016, the second report – Missing Children in Southeast Asia: Model Framework & Regional Review, with a focus on 10 countries in Southeast Asia – was published in the hopes of enhancing the region’s engagement in missing children’s issues. The third report published in August 2016 – Missing Children Assessment and Recommendations Best Practices Guide: Belarus, Canada, Finland, Kazakhstan, Russia, and the United States – was similar in scope and purpose to the previously cited reports.

We now are conducting country-by-country reviews, and will make new country-specific reports available on an on-going basis.

The key takeaway remains the same: we have a global duty of care to help prevent child from going missing, find any child who has gone missing for any reason, and ensure that all children experience a safe childhood.

Click here for more information about the scope of the issue around the world.