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 Thursday, 13 November 2008

ITU launched a new initiative today to safeguard children, the most vulnerable users of the Internet. Addressing ITUís high-level meeting on cybersecurity by video message, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "We have to protect against cyberthreats, especially when they target children. I welcome the ITUís Child Online Protection (COP) initiative and urge all States to support it."

The Child Online Protection initiative brings together partners from all sectors of the international community with the aim of creating a safe and secure online experience for children everywhere. While the virtual world offers unlimited opportunities in many respects, it is also the hunting ground for cybercriminals and paedophiles. Recognizing that a concerted global effort would be required to ensure that the cyberworld becomes a safe place for young people to work, learn and play, ITU is working with other UN agencies, including UNICEF, UNICRI and UNIDIR.

Building confidence and security At the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2005, ITU was entrusted by leaders of the international community with Action Point C5: "building confidence and security in the use of ICTs". As an intergovernmental organization with a network of 191 Member States and more than 700 Sector Members and Associates, ITU was a logical choice. In 2007, in answer to this responsibility, Dr Hamadoun Tourť, ITU Secretary-General, launched the Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA), an international framework that addresses 5 main aspects: legal measures technical and procedural measures organizational structure capacity building international cooperation The WSIS outcomes also specifically recognized the needs of children and young people and their protection in cyberspace.

The Tunis Commitment recognized "the role of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the protection of children and in enhancing the development of children" and the need to "strengthen action to protect children from abuse and defend their rights in the context of ICT". The COP initiative is in line with ITUís mandate to establish the foundation for a safe and secure cyberworld for future generations. The need for COP is clear. A decade ago, there were just 182 million people using the Internet globally ó and almost all of them lived in the developed world. By the end of 2008, however, there will be over 1.5 billion Internet users worldwide, and more than 400 million of them will have broadband access ó vastly increasing the dangers online, especially for children. With over 600 million users in Asia, 130 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 50 million in Africa, the Internet is a growing common resource. 

"ITU is the lead UN agency on ICT for Development," said Mr Sami Al-Basheer, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT). "In working towards an all-inclusive information society we must ensure that children everywhere can enjoy the benefits of ICTs while being protected from the risks posed by inappropriate use."

Read the full press release for the COP initiative here.