NGOs unite to call for an increased investment in prevention efforts to protect children from exploitation in ECPAT-USA’s response to the U.S. Government’s (USG) report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). In partnership with 59 organizations, ECPAT-USA submitted the NGO Alternative Report, an assessment of the U.S. Government’s work to implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (OPSC).The need for early prevention of child trafficking is a recommendation raised by several independent NGO submissions to the Alternative Report. To date, the USG has mostly focused on prevention efforts that restore those who have been already been exploited for sex or labor. These strategies, while necessary, are generally the most costly and least effective as they occur after the victimization has already occurred. The USG must also invest in early intervention strategies that reach victims at an earlier stage when less emotional, mental or physical damage has occurred. Implemented correctly, these initiatives can protect children and adults from ever being victimized.
Two critical early prevention strategies include addressing demand by holding buyers accountable for the harm they cause and encouraging states to educate children at risk both in the classroom and out-of-school, teachers, parents, and first responders. Demand reduction has become a priority for advocates and Members of Congress, however, the USG continues to lag in the implementation of these efforts. Similarly, many advocates have expressed interest in increasing early education and awareness-raising trainings aimed at youth in and out of schools as well as educators and parents. The USG must create a national strategy to reduce demand and provide incentives and leadership for states to implement evidence based demand reduction techniques. The Department of Education must also receive adequate funding so that educators and youth in and out of schools can receive necessary training and education.
The Alternative Report, a collaborative effort of NGOs, service providers, and advocates who are working on the ground with and for sexually exploited children in the U.S., makes a total of 18 recommendations to the UNCRC in 5 categories including: changing state laws so sexually exploited children are treated as victims; increasing access to services for survivors; increasing data collection and transparency; evaluating USG training and awareness-raising efforts; and reducing the exploitation of children in travel and tourism. The Report also stresses the importance of the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The U.S. is the only state not party to the CRC; before the end of his term, NGOs urge President Obama to send the CRC to the Senate so that it may be ratified.