At the first World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (Stockholm, 1996), governments of 119 countries, together with UN agencies, NGOs and other organizations and individuals, adopted a Declaration and Agenda for Action that committed them to: a) Promote the participation of children, including child victims, young people, their families, peers and others who are potential helpers of children so that they are able to express their views and to take action to prevent and protect children from commercial sexual exploitation and to assist child victims to be reintegrated into society; and b) I dentify or establish and support networks of children and young people as advocates of child rights, and include children, according to their evolving capacity, in developing and implementing government and other programmes concerning them. The 2nd World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (Yokohama, 2001) followed up on efforts to strengthen the commitments made in Stockholm. It also included regional commitments, statements and declarations. World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents takes place in Rio de Janeiro from 25 to 28 November 2008, and it aims to promote a broader agenda on children’s civil rights and children’s active role as citizens. Child protection is a focus of research, policy and programming in UNICEF as well as other UN agencies, NGOs and governments. Results of this work have helped a range of partners identify and reach the most vulnerable children and protect all children from abuse and exploitation. Together with partners, UNICEF has promoted children’s participation in a number of ways. Examples include the UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children in 2006 and its follow up, as well as UNICEF’s engagement with the Committee on the Rights of the Child in its deliberations over the decision to develop a General Comment on article 12, which will address the right to be heard. A ‘Day of General Discussion on the Rights of the Child to be Heard’ was held by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2006. These efforts support government decisions and actions to be informed by children’s and adolescents’ realities and recommendations. This paper presents an overview of government commitments to strengthen participation by children and adolescents to protect them from sexual abuse and exploitation. It also considers concrete recommendations for strengthening young people’s involvement in their own protection, based on their recommendations about what is needed to realize the Stockholm Declaration and Agenda for Action. Other useful inputs include case studies that offer new perspectives on children’s and adolescents’ participation to combat sexual exploitation and abuse. The paper provides recommendations for further research, policy development and programming intended to support advocacy and practice developments with and by children and adolescents. These are aimed at furthering achievement of their protection and participation rights during and after World Congress III. The paper calls for governments, UN agencies and NGOs to promote children’s civil rights and recognize their agency and the diversity of childhood experiences. It highlights the importance of strengthening child protection systems, developing and strengthening child-led groups and networks, and creating processes and mechanisms for children to access information, express their views, participate in practice and policy matters concerning them and gain feedback. It further highlights the need for better implementation of international standards that recognize and promote children’s participation and encourage special efforts to address discrimination and involve the most marginalized girls and boys.

Sustainable Development Goals:
Related Subject(s): Children and Youth

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  • Published online: 28 Feb 2009
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