Today, the world’s most widely ratified human rights treaty – the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – has adopted General Comment 25, which embeds children’s rights online into its larger framework. Eight organisations leading on children’s rights at the global, regional and national levels welcome this adoption, including ECPAT International, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, the International Telecommunication Union, UNESCO, the WeProtect Global Alliance, World Childhood Foundation USA, and the World Health Organization.
Today’s adoption signals the first time children’s digital experiences are mentioned within the CRC, and marks a historic moment for all those working to protect children on the internet. As partners, we are jointly issuing this statement because we share a vision of how children’s rights can and should be implemented and monitored in digital environments. We believe the adoption of the General Comment is a groundbreaking step to getting there.
General Comment 25 not only raises awareness of the risks children face online, but also places responsibility on countries and businesses to take action to address those risks. It targets key stakeholders to acknowledge the importance of child rights in digital environments. And, it reaffirms the foundational principles of children’s rights, including their right to protection from abuse, exploitation and other forms of violence on the internet.
At a time when international cooperation on children’s digital safety is more important than ever, General Comment 25 provides a tool to help achieve precisely that. It calls for greater action and institutional capacity in situations of violence and abuse against children, and for greater responsibilities of states and the private sector to provide a safe-by-design digital environment for children. It also pushes for international harmonization on this issue, as threats to children’s safety online cross both national and international borders.
In addition, the General Comment underscores the need to anticipate future trends, both relating to the opportunities and risks children may face online. It highlights the criticality of establishing safe, empowering online environments for all children, preventing child abuse online before it happens, and reconfiguring the existing internet – which was not created with children’s safety in mind.
We are very grateful to all who have helped to bring this landmark step to fruition, including the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the vibrant community of child online protection experts within the UN system and from civil society, including members of the Child Online Protection Initiative.
We welcome the overwhelming global support for this General Comment and call for every country to now implement its principles.