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International Campaign Against Sexual Exploitation of Children in Tourism
The sexual exploitation of children in tourism (SECT) often referred to as "child sex tourism", is a global phenomenon that affects both tourism sending and destination countries. It has impact on millions of children each year and constitutes a violation of the human rights of the child.
Although fed by supply and demand between tourism generating and receiving countries, it is a result of a complex interplay of social, cultural and economic factors. The commercial sexual exploitation of children in tourism has been recognized by governments as harmful to tourism and it has come under increased scrutiny by the international community. Several institutions at the international, regional and national levels have taken responsibility to implement measures aimed at combating it.
The international campaign for the protection of children from sexual exploitation in tourism, launched in 1997 by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Task Force, aims at promoting a socially responsible and sustainable tourism that respects the rights of the child. Its main objective is to prevent sexual abuse of children occurring within the tourism channels and facilities by creating effective networks and sound partnerships among the private and public sectors, governments, the tourism industry, international organizations and NGOs.
At the end of 2000, UNWTO started to pool resources with the European Union (EU). Since that date, a total of 2 million euros have been committed by the EU to support a number of interactive projects coordinated by UNWTO which have led to awareness-raising and capacity-building actions in the tourism sector to counter the sexual exploitation of children. These projects are jointly implemented with NGO partners, namely the ECPAT Group, the Family and Child Care Centre, the International Federation of Journalists and Terre des Hommes/Germany.
A successful and sustainable international campaign needs to be actively supported by all those who have an interest in the development of tourism, as well as in defending the rights of the child. These include governments, who can develop and enforce laws, policies and programmes to combat SECT; the tourism industry who can adopt self-regulatory measures and professional codes of conduct against it, raise awareness and educate personnel; the local population at tourist destinations, including local businesses, who can take measures to ensure that it is not condoned or promoted in their communities; non-governmental organizations and child rights campaigners, who can advocate for changes in laws and policies and assist child victims with recovery and reintegration into society; tourists and travellers who should refrain from participating and actively denounce it.
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