In 1996, Belgium was shaken by tragedy. A man named Marc Dutroux, an unemployed electrician and father of three, had over the course of many years committed a series of kidnappings, rapes, and killings of a still-unknown number of teenage girls. Called the “Dutroux Affair,” the episode galvanized Belgium, and more than 300,000 Belgian citizens came together to express their anger and frustration in the handling of the case in the now-famous “White March.”
Belgian Prime Minster Dehaene turned to the U.S. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) for help.
In the late 1990s, NCMEC had found itself responding to numerous requests for assistance from individuals and organizations around the world. The “Dutroux Affair” was the latest. So when Prime Minister Dehaene asked NCMEC to help establish a center in Brussels, NCMEC’s President replied, “You do not need an American solution to this problem — you need a Belgian solution.”
With the volume of requests for assistance from abroad exceeding NCMEC’s capacity to respond, the Board of Directors authorized the creation of a new organization that would devote itself to doing globally what NCMEC was committed to doing in the United States.
“It will take a concerted effort by governments, law enforcement, industry, civil society, communities, and individuals to ensure that the world’s children are protected.” Dr. Franz B. Humer, Chairman of the Board, ICMEC
A year later, members of the Board of Directors for the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) held their first meeting in 1998, and ICMEC was launched in April 1999.
ICMEC was born out of tragedy, created as a reaction to heinous crimes committed against children. Since our inception, we have worked to safeguard children from abduction, sexual abuse and exploitation, partnering with governments, academia, law enforcement, and the NGO community, to offer a range of practical measures that protect children.
Since we opened our doors to the world we have trained over 10,500 law enforcement officers. We have contributed substantially to both new and refined laws against child pornography in 127 countries. We have expanded the Global Missing Children’s Network; 25 countries are now members. We have advocated for the commemoration of International Missing Children’s Day, which is presently recognized on May 25th in 17 countries across four continents. And we have expanded our global partnerships.
With each new partnership, each new initiative, we take another step toward our goal of making the world safer for children.