New index makes it possible to measure responses to SDG 16.2
– but detection of child sexual abuse material is missing
Last week, a new index that measures national response to child sexual abuse and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs) was released. This new benchmarking index, developed by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, scores 40 different countries across the world. Together these 40 countries cover 70 percent of the global population under 19 years of age.
Finally possible to measure responses to CSA
We welcome the new index, as finally there is a tool available to measure how well countries respond and live up to the SDGs. It shines a light on how governments prioritise and act on the issue of child sexual abuse, and will hopefully lead to more and improved responses around the globe.
Political will is the first step
The index primarily measures political will and policies. It looks at legal frameworks, government commitment and codes of conduct. These factors lay the foundation to action against child sexual abuse, and are important first steps towards a robust response against child sexual abuse. However, it says little of the concrete actions taken to actually deliver on policies and codes of conduct.
In future development of the index we hope to see the section that measures industry, civil society and media expanded and developed, and concrete action further measured across the index.
Indicator missing from the index
Detection of child sexual abuse in the workplace is one of the concrete actions that needs to be included in the index. The NetClean Report 2018 showed that 1 in 500 work computers is used to handle child sexual abuse material. Research and studies have also pointed to a strong correlation between consumption of child sexual abuse material and hands on sexual abuse of children. As most people have a job, employers across industries and sectors are in a unique position to discover child sexual abuse material and stop child sexual abuse.
Detecting child sexual abuse material on work computers is also a concrete way for organisations to show the gravity of their Codes of Conduct. It is one of the few ways we can turn words into action.
Why the industry, civil society and media section needs to be expanded
The index looks at Internet Service Providers, a hugely important industry for blocking online child sexual abuse material. However looking at ISP’s alone is not sufficient, as blocking of URLs covers only one aspect of a whole range of different layers on the internet and digital communication. Child sexual abuse material is spread and shared in many ways that ISP blocking cannot stop, such as encrypted traffic including https, P2P, chat apps and darknet, just to name a few. (Read more about the different technologies available and how they need to complement each other here).
Similarly, codes of conduct in the tourism and travel industry only measure one industry among many, and a code of conduct measures intent, but it doesn’t measure the actual actions taken.
Political will, strong legal frameworks, dedicated law enforcement units, education and empowerment of children, blocking of child sexual abuse material, actions by the tourism industry to report travelling offenders and strong codes of conduct are all extremely important and necessary. But leaving work places unprotected creates a huge blind spot and a loophole that needs to be closed.
Private industry largely drives SDG compliance
SDG compliance is primarily driven by the private industry, with the government and public sector being largely absent. Today, the private sector uses detection tools in 110 countries across the world. However, the only country where public sector organisations protect their work computers to make sure that child sexual abuse material is not handled within the organisations, and that people with a sexual interest in children do not work there, is Sweden. Yet, even in Sweden there is still a lot more work that public sector organisations can do.
This is somewhat surprising as the public sector, arguably, has the most to gain by acting on these issues; not only protecting their own organisations, but also safeguarding children, something that all public sector organisations should be party to. Protecting children from sexual abuse is not only an ethical and moral issue, for the public sector it is also a financial issue, as failing to protect children is incredibly costly both in terms of care and loss of future potential.
Detection should be a hygiene factor
Making sure that child sexual abuse is not handled within an organisation should be a hygiene factor for businesses and public sector organisations that take the protection of the next generation of children seriously.
This includes the ISPs and the tourism sector. It is highly commendable that these sectors are taking responsibility for their customers, but they should also ’put their own house in order’ and make sure that child sexual abuse material doesn’t have a place within their own organisations.
There is a saying that it is the thought that counts, but in this case only action counts.