Statement by Ernie Allen, President & CEO of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children
ALEXANDRIA, VA – President Barack Obama’s statement this morning sent a loud, clear message that human trafficking, including the trafficking of children for sexual purposes, is a serious problem in the United States and worldwide. We are particularly grateful for his commitment to develop new tools to identify and assist trafficking victims, increase resources for victims, mobilize the private sector as never before, and execute a comprehensive plan to attack this problem on multiple fronts.
According to the United Nations, 1.2 million children are trafficked each year worldwide and 1.8 million children are used in commercial sex, many sold into sexual slavery by poor families and others abducted and trafficked into brothels and the sex industry. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has reported that 79% of human trafficking is sexual exploitation. In the United States, University of Pennsylvania research funded by the Justice Department estimates that at least 100,000 American children each year are the victims of sex trafficking and prostitution.
Today’s statement by the President elevates this complex, troubling issue on the national and international agenda as never before. His message is validation of the extraordinary efforts of so many people who have been fighting for these kids, and sends a message that there is hope. Help is on the way.
We are particularly encouraged by the President’s call for a focus upon technology and his commitment to convene technology leaders to search for new solutions. The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) is a leader worldwide in addressing the troubling modern reality that child trafficking has moved from the streets to the Internet.
ICMEC is advocating changes to international treaties and protocols, like the Cybercrime Convention (2001) and the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (2000), both of which are largely silent on the use of the Internet for human trafficking, including advertising a trafficking victim’s sexual services online or receiving payments for such exploitation services via the Internet.
ICMEC is working with parliaments worldwide to change laws on child sexual exploitation, including Internet-based child trafficking. And it is conducting law enforcement training worldwide to increase capacity in every country to confront these complex crimes. ICMEC is also promoting the creation of regional, multi-national law enforcement task forces to attack child trafficking.
We are deeply grateful to President Obama for his leadership and advocacy, and truly believe that this heralds a new chapter in the fight to rescue trafficked children in the United States and around the world. It will help us bring this horrendous problem to an end.