Crime Commission to address protection of children from exploitation on the Web

Photo: UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov Français / French

11 April 2011 - Progress in international efforts to address transnational organized crime, including emerging issues such as cybercrime, will be the focus of the twentieth session of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, to be held in Vienna from 11 to 15 April.

The Commission, which is the central body within the United Nations system responsible for providing policy guidance on crime prevention and criminal justice, will devote a special session to the misuse of technology in the abuse and exploitation of children.

Cybercrime is growing rapidly, but the sheer volume of Internet traffic and the sophistication of the methods used by saboteurs make it impossible to establish a precise figure for the profits gained by criminals and the losses incurred by businesses. As more people gain access to the Internet, more victims are drawn into costly scams. But the harm done to children goes beyond monetary calculations.

"Serious offences are being committed - often right under a parent's nose", said Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, in his opening remarks.  "The Web literally opens a portal into your home and your children may be letting criminals in."

Young people are particularly vulnerable in an online environment.  Engaging with criminals may lead to grooming, the disturbing practice whereby adults befriend minors in chat rooms or game sites with the aim of committing sexual abuse.

"Online child abuse constitutes a grave international crime and demands concerted collaboration: that means developing cyberethics, cybersafety and cybersecurity", Mr. Fedotov stressed.

"We are playing cat-and-mouse in cyberspace. Criminal entrepreneurs are agile, opportunistic and market-driven. This is something that is moving rapidly, yet most of the laws we have were not put in place for the global digital age."

Since cybercrime defies national borders or jurisdictions, criminal justice systems working in isolation are often no match for powerful networks. "The threat and prevalence of malicious Internet activity should not be underestimated. It is important that countries harmonize legal frameworks to prevent and combat cyberthreats and that they facilitate international cooperation", added Mr. Fedotov.

As is the case for many crime issues, there is a lack of reliable data. "We do not have an accurate picture of the scope and nature of the problem and cannot act as effectively as we should.  Knowledge is essential for evidence-based policy and we must fill the information gap. I invite all countries to strengthen their efforts to collect and share information to help to combat crime at the national and international levels", said the Executive Director.

The role of the private sector and law enforcement in foiling cybercriminals and promoting safe online behaviour will be explored during the Crime Commission.  "Regulation has an important role to play, but when it comes to fighting crime there has to be a partnership between the public and the private sectors. There can be no other way", said Mr. Fedotov.

"Crime prevention and victim protection cannot be achieved by Governments or criminal justice systems alone; we need Internet service providers, civil society, the media, educational institutions and the public on board. Let us harness global know-how, galvanize political will and keep society - and especially our children - safe from unseen predators", he said.

During the Commission session, a number of side events will be held to address some of the most challenging crime issues today, such as maritime piracy, human trafficking, illegal trafficking in cultural property and armed violence.

Related information:

Twentieth session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

Opening speech by Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC