Learning, networking and visioning a safe digital future: Safe Online Network Forum & WeProtect Global Summit

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On 30-31 May 2022, End Violence’s Safe Online initiative brought together over 40 grantees and partners from across the world alongside donors, and industry representatives from the Tech Coalition in a unique opportunity aligned around a common vision to end online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA).  

Online CSEA is now the fastest growing form of violence against children. At any given time, 750,000 individuals are looking to connect with children for sexual purposes across the globe. According to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, in 2021 almost 85 million files containing online child sexual abuse material were reported, up by 20 million from the previous year. 

Over two-days of ‘networking and knowledge-sharing’ at the forum, critical discussions on good practices to turn evidence into change, cross-sector collaborations, the role of industry and latest technologies were held to fight this pressing challenge. The community had an opportunity to hear perspectives from organisations doing ground-breaking work from around the world to disrupt tech-related harm to children at national, regional and global levels. See here interviews with select grantees on how their projects are creating a safer digital future for children.

Sessions focused on a range of topics – improving data on online CSEA; promising technology tools to make online platforms safer for children; hearing from grantees on good practices for strengthening capacities and systems at the national levels; celebrating successes and achievements over the last year and translating evidence into advocacy efforts. Day 2 was forward-looking and focused on emerging trends and key priorities in the CSEA ecosystem and exploring more effective collaborative systems between the tech industry and civil society, NGOs and academic institutes.  

The need for collaboration and collective effort 

The final part of the two-day meeting was the donor convening organised in partnership with the WeProtect Global Alliance. The session highlighted the path-breaking advances that the community has made over the last 5 years as the Safe Online portfolio has grown and diversified with 68 million US$ in investments with impact in over 75 countries. 

Safe Online is actively investing funds, time and resources into building a diverse community of organisations that can work together at various levels and across sectors. However, a lot remains to be done, especially in terms of fostering more meaningful cooperation and collaboration with donor governments, foundations and the private sector. The donor convening, therefore, focused on understanding the key challenges, strategic efforts and who is best placed to do what, so we can increase effectiveness of our joint efforts and investments.  

“Our hope is that we will come out of this meeting much stronger as a community of change-makers working to make the internet safe for children”. 

Marija Manojlovic, Safe Online Director, End Violence Partnership

Key moments for action

The Network Forum was held at the margins of ‘Turning the Tide’, the WeProtect Global Summit hosted by WeProtect and the European Commission on 1-2 June in Brussels. The Summit provided an opportunity for Alliance members from industry, governments, civil society and international organisations to come together to share learnings, agree on collaborative solutions and reaffirm commitments to take action. The Safe Online community was active during the various sessions of the Summit sharing insights and perspectives including the latest evidence and learnings on what works, and what doesn’t, to prevent and respond to online CSEA.

Dr. Howard Taylor, Executive Director, End Violence Partnership, speaking at the Summit, highlighted the foundational role of the Model National Response for the End Violence Partnership, and particularly Safe Online, in shaping the investment approach, efforts to build an effective evidence-base on online CSEA and advocacy with key stakeholders.  

In another session, Marija Manojlovic, Safe Online Director, End Violence Partnership, highlighted the need for robust data in order to tackle online CSEA and be more effective in our investments. Safe Online’s Disrupting Harm project was born of this ambition and has been invaluable in ‘putting hard data to the problem’ and catalysing action and funding.

Just two weeks after the Network Forum, the End Violence Partnership hosted the Together to #ENDviolence Leaders’ Event which was one of the most diverse and influential groups that have ever come together solely to focus on ending violence against children. Powerful advocates including Julie Inman Grant, Australian eSafety Commissioner, Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex and Ashton Kutcher, Actor, Producer and co-Founder of Thorn, spoke about the need for developing and investing in technological solutions in the ever-evolving digital environment and laid out urgent calls to action. 

These critical engagements, at the Safe Online Network Forum, Leaders Event and WPGA, were a unique opportunity to bring the community together to jointly problem-solve, open the door for new collaborations, and plan for the future. Most importantly, it resulted in a shared understanding of critical needs and helped create a common vision on how to end child sexual exploitation and abuse online. 

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