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European Commission

Cecilia Malmström

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs

Speech Together against child sexual abuse

Expert conference - launch of Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online / Brussels

5 December 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to welcome and thank you all for coming to Brussels today. Some of you have come from the other side of the world, while others have had a shorter journey. Regardless, your contributions by coming here are highly appreciated.

With us today we have experts from Law enforcement, Non-Governmental Organisations, Industry and many others. I do not know all of you, but I do know that we have many of the foremost experts in the world gathered in this room.

I'm honoured to announce that Her Majesty Queen Paula of Belgium, with her well known commitment to help children, has agreed to be our high patron and the Queen will join us around noon for the session on awareness raising. It is also a great pleasure for me to welcome Mrs Barroso and thank her for her efforts to provide our children a safer environment.

We are here today to launch a Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online, because we have to do more to fight this horrific crime.

Child sexual abuse material circulates easily across jurisdictions through different channels via the internet.

Global efforts to reduce the circulation are still insufficient. Only a fraction of the material is taken down, and they frequently reappear again. Once a picture has been posted, a child abuse image can remain available on the internet forever. But the problem does not stop there.

Not enough child victims are identified.

Not enough perpetrators are brought to justice.

And we know that Child sexual abuse online offenses are often closely linked to the actual act of hands-on abuse.

Child sexual abuse offenders these days operate in international online groups that take sophisticated measures, such as the use of anonymizing technologies and security protocols, to hamper the efforts of law enforcement to investigate these crimes.

As a result, the phenomenon of child sexual abuse online and exploitation has reached alarming proportions.

One year ago, the Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder and I agreed that we needed to put this problem at the top of the agenda and take action. We thought the best way forward was to build a Global Alliance with Justice and Interior Ministers around the world.

In less than one year, we are here today - with 48 countries represented - to launch a Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online.

By joining the Global Alliance, Ministers commit to pursue key policy targets and goals to combat these crimes. To make this work, we all have to take ambitious actions on the home front.

We pledge to work to identify more child victims and to help and protect them.

We will undertake efforts to enhance investigations and prosecute offenders.

We commit ourselves to make children aware of online risks, so that they can enjoy their online lives without fear. And we pledge to reduce the availability of online child sexual abuse material.

The Global Alliance is not an international treaty. It is not an international organisation. It is a common endeavour of countries that are serious about protecting children.

The Global Alliance does not tell countries what actions they need to undertake to reach our common goals. This is for each country to decide in the way they see fit, taking account of each nation's legal system, structures and resources.

But we jointly commit to achieve certain goals, and we ask the Members of the Alliance to identify and announce the specific actions they will be undertaking, to carry them out, and to report back in this forum, to spread experiences and best practice.

The Global Alliance can and will provide support and inspiration on what each country can do, what has worked well elsewhere and equally important what has worked less well.

It can also encourage participating countries to become members of other initiatives such as the excellent Global Virtual Taskforce, where Europol plays a very active role, or the Child Online Protection initiative. It can be to have their national hotline join the INHOPE network.

This is why the Global Alliance is not a competitor of other international initiatives, but on the contrary a supporting element. It is only when our different initiatives complement each other that we can be truly successful.

Some might say that the Global Alliance is just about political commitments, without any legally binding obligation, so there is no real need to follow it up. I disagree.

The political commitment at Ministerial level means that countries will be undertaking improvements to protect children from sexual abuse online.

The effectiveness of the Global Alliance will be measured by the level of ambition and consistency of its Members. If all 48 countries take intensive action, progress will be enormous. If the countries make improvements in only some areas, progress will be modest.

Either way, we will be able to help more children escape abuse and trauma. And that is what makes our common endeavour worthwhile.

You are all experts in areas where the Global Alliance can make a difference. When, in one year's time, the Minister of Interior or Justice in your country will be deciding on legislation, on where to direct resources, on reaching out for cooperation in order to pursue our common goals, you, as experts, will be there.

It will be your advice and expertise that will be sought. It will be your dedication and commitment that will transform political will into actual deeds.

That is why your commitment and presence here today is crucial. As we take our work forward in the Global Alliance, your engagement and expertise will make all the difference.

Thank you for your attention.

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