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South Asia Preparatory Consultation for World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents

©UNICEF/HQ05-1757/Asad Zaidi - South Asia Preparatory Consultation for World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents

The UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre has played an active role in a preparatory consultation on sexual exploitation of children and adolescents, held in Kathmandu from 27-29 August 2008.
The gathering was hosted by the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare in Nepal, in close collaboration with the South Asia Forum (SAF) and the South Asia Coordinating Group against Violence against Children (SACG). The aim was to ensure that the issues and challenges relevant to South Asia were appropriately reflected in the proceedings and follow-up mechanisms of the November 2008 World Congress III against Sexual Exploitation of Children. The consultation also made linkages with ongoing regional processes and initiatives geared towards combating violence against children.
Government officials, representatives of the UN family, non-governmental and civil society organizations, the private sector, children and young people came together to:

* Review progress since a UNICEF mid-term review in Sri Lanka 2004. The preparatory consultation will provide a good platform for governments to share their reports ahead of WCIII (which will not involve direct reporting from the governments).
* Within the broader context of the World Congress III thematic issues, highlight regional specific aspects of sexual exploitation of children, as guided by the SACG sub-groups on early marriage, human trafficking, physical and psychological punishment, and sexual abuse and exploitation.
* Identify and agree upon specific targets and indicators for sexual exploitation for the region, and on mechanisms for follow-up and monitoring progress.
* Contribute specific outcomes from the consultation to the World Congress III proceedings and final outcomes.
* Agree upon a process for the participation of children and youth from South Asia in WCIII, in consultation with youth who will be present and involved in the Kathmandu consultation.

Two Innocenti studies will be launched in the context of the meeting, and will call attention to the issue of trafficking of children in the region, provide input to the consultation, and inform the regional position presented at WCIII in Brazil.

The studies, entitled South Asia in Action: Preventing and responding to child trafficking, reveal that children in South Asia are being trafficked for multiple forms of exploitation, but few reliable estimates exist about the magnitude of the phenomenon. They also demonstrate that in South Asia legal protection of trafficked children is insufficient; that child trafficking is typically addressed as a law enforcement and criminal justice issues only, within South Asia and globally; and that there is a lack of coordination between the various plans and initiatives to address trafficking across and within countries.

Key recommendations include empowering children and ensuring their participation in developing legal and policy responses to trafficking; ensuring adequate support and assistance to children who have been trafficked; developing national child protection systems that operate in communities and at the national level; and further strengthening regional and international cooperation.

The South Asia Forum for Ending Violence Against Children was formed as an outcome of the May 2005 South Asia Regional Consultation on the United Nations Study on Violence against Children. The intergovernmental regional body is made up of representatives from the governments of eight countries in the region - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - all members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The forum was established to enable the countries of the region to effectively implement measures to end all forms of violence against children by the governments and other stakeholders with an initial regional focus on child trafficking, child corporal and psychological punishment and forced and early marriage.