The International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression is celebrated on June 4th each year. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about the pain suffered by children around the world who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse. This day affirms the United Nations’ commitment to protect the rights of children. Its work is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history.
Commemorating the International Day, the Director of UNICRI, Antonia Marie De Meo, said: “More than 30 years since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, millions of children are still victims of serious crimes and deprived of their basic rights. The digital era has enabled unprecedented opportunities to realize children’s rights, but it has also intensified children’s exposure to risks. Trafficking in children and online child sexual exploitation and abuse are growing exponentially, also exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only has the scale of abuse increased as a result, but also its severity and complexity.”
Since its establishment more than 50 years ago, UNICRI has contributed to the protection of children’s rights through the development of strategies, policies and concrete actions to enhance capacities and strengthen legislative frameworks.
Most recently UNICRI, through its Centre for AI and Robotics in The Hague, and in partnership with the Ministry of Interior of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), launched the AI for Safer Children initiative with the aim of tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse online through the exploration of new technological solutions, in particular artificial intelligence (AI).
To do so, UNICRI and the UAE Ministry of Interior are supporting law enforcement agencies across the globe to tap into the potential of AI through a unique centralized platform – the AI for Safer Children Global Hub. A secure online repository, the AI for Safer Children Global Hub contains information on AI tools and techniques that can be used by investigators around the world to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. It also contains practical guidance on how to navigate the ethical challenges presented by the use of AI and how investigators can protect their own mental health and wellbeing while investigating these horrific crimes.
UNICRI Director De Meo recently explained the importance of this AI for Safer Children initiative during the Conference on Sustainable Development Goal 16 “People-centred approach in a post pandemic world”, organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO).
In her remarks she observed that the technological promise of the tools and techniques on the AI for Safer Children Global Hub is impressive. “Large quantities of data can be processed rapidly. Leads and directions for further investigation can be revealed. Victims can be identified and located. And investigators, who previously had to pour through horrific graphic pieces of evidence, can be saved from trauma. For example, facial recognition software can be used to rapidly process hundreds of thousands of images, blurring out graphic details other than faces, aiding investigators to identify victims with much less trauma to investigators. This advanced technology is literally protecting and saving lives – of victims and law enforcement. Tapping into such potential should be a key aspect of our new vision of the rule of law.”
She continued to note that, “At the same time, advanced technology is only a tool. It must be used in accordance with rule of law and human rights principles, and for that, the role of the individual is key. Human beings must remain the ultimate decision makers to ensure fundamental fairness. It is also important to never lose sight of the fact that, behind every generalized data set, are lots of individual victims we are here to protect and defend.”
The AI for Safer Children initiative ultimately seeks to contribute to realizing Target 2 of Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which envisages an end to abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children. On the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, UNICRI reaffirms its strong commitment to support innovative ways to protect children and calls on governments and private companies alike to join forces and help stop child exploitation and abuse.