Multi Faith Advisory Council to the United Nations Inter-Agency Task
Force on Religion and Development
FAITH IN THE UN: A GLOBAL ONLINE CONFERENCE
Commemorating 75th Anniversary of the UN and looking to the future. 8 September 2020
How can the UN secure the future of youth and children by tackling challenges related to media and the Internet?
Let me begin with the story of Jessica (not her real name), a child from Asia; Jessica was sexually abused, exploited and harmed. Her pictures and videos are all over the internet. She says; (And I quote her), “Every time I see someone looking at me, I wonder if they know, if they’ve seen [those] pictures.” And a police officer following the trails of online abusers interviewed said, “The victims can only get so young. We have seen the abuse of babies and very, very young toddlers depicted [in online materials].”
Jessica is just one amongst the millions of other children that have been sexually abused, exploited and harmed—physically and online. While the internet has improved connectivity, catalysed economic growth and innovation and improved education; it has also made it easier for those that seek to harm children like Jessica, across multiple jurisdictions.
With reduced risk of detection on the dark web, and as the internet connectivity continue to expand—so too do the online criminal networks, and sexual crimes committed against children and young people. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, more children and young people are spending more time online, thus increasing their exposure to criminals.
Never before has it been easier for the criminal gangs to make contact and exploit children online. Millions of sexual abuse materials including videos and pictures, like that of Jessica, are streamed online—some live.
They (children) are scarred for life. They are re-victimized many times over as those images are reposted and continue to circulate online. The United Nations, together with faith communities can ensure the Dignity of Children Online.
UN can work for:
- Enhanced collaboration between law enforcement agencies in multiple jurisdictions,
- Strengthen partnerships between governments and faith-based organizations,
- Create and promote stronger legal frameworks,
- More investments in preventive tools, to take out sexual abuse materials online.
In seeking to prevent more children, like Jessica, from falling prey to criminals online, Arigatou International, which I represent, and a range of partners, including the members of the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC), are working to ensure the Dignity of Children Online.
For example, the program “Cyber Care: Protecting Children in the Digital World” to support the safety of children online is implemented in some countries in Latin America.
And concluding my remarks as we commemorate the UN 75th anniversary, I quote Malika, a young GNRC member from Pakistan. She says;
“The [online] platforms…. must be free from all kinds of violence, harassment and discrimination….”
Mustafa Y. Ali, PhD
GNRC Secretary General, and
Director, Arigatou International – Nairobi.