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FOCUS December 2007 Volume 50

Regional Conference on Enhancing Child Protection through Database Development

Kimiko Okada*

* Kimiko Okada is a staff of HURIGHTS OSAKA.

Asia ACTs against Child Trafficking (Asia ACTs), a network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working towards the elimination of child trafficking in Southeast Asia, organized the Regional Conference on Enhancing Child Protection through Database Development: Mapping of Existing Database Efforts to Fight Child Trafficking in Southeast Asia on 22-24 October 2007 in Bangkok. This Conference followed the Seminar Workshop on
the Southeast Asian Guidelines for the Protection of the Rights of Children Victims of Trafficking organized also by Asia ACTs in 2006.[1]

Due to the nature of the issue, accurate data on trafficking in human beings (including its scale) has been lacking. Such data is critical in understanding the situation and trends of the issue, in taking appropriate responses and in developing policies. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) 2006 report, Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns, is an example of an effort to present the global trends in trafficking in human beings. In Southeast Asia, on the other hand, some of the member-organizations of Asia ACTs as well as related organizations have their own data collection initiatives.

Asia ACTs saw the need to develop a regional database to monitor and prevent child trafficking as well as to provide information that would help improve responses to child trafficking. Thus the Bangkok Conference was held to share information on data collection initiatives and to come up with recommendations to complement the existing database initiatives of various organizations. There were around forty participants, both from within and outside of the region, from governments as well as NGOs.

Conference proceedings

A researcher of the UNODC introduced the database initiative currently being planned. She mentioned the criticisms on the 2006 UNODC Report for being based on secondary data, and categorizing countries into "sending" and "receiving" countries. She explained that guidelines for the database framework would be prepared before developing a new database. She hoped that it would be continuously updated to provide information to judges and prosecutors working on trafficking cases, and support public awareness-raising efforts. The new database will focus on government responses to trafficking including court decisions.

The Terre des Hommes Child Relief TACT Project in South-Eastern Europe was another example presented at conference. The project, with database component, provides assistance to children who are victims of trafficking. Social workers who are in contact with the children input the data, and information is accessible online. Data include information on the child victims and the traffickers. Security of information is maintained through multiple passwords and various levels of access. Several comments were raised such as the importance of making users become aware of the risks of information leak, the differences in legal provisions on personal information that create difficulties in sharing information among different countries, and the need to clarify the purpose of the database, the participation of users in developing it, and to keep it simple and easy to use.

Subsequent panel discussions and workshops introduced and discussed other initiatives within and outside of the Mekong region. Existing and planned databases generally focus on information on children who were rescued, returned or came into contact with NGOs or officials in the course of responding to trafficking cases, the cases themselves, and information regarding income, education and other relevant matters which may provide bases for developing policies on anti-trafficking and the welfare of children at risk.

A representative of Save the Children introduced its database for six countries in the Mekong region that helps analyze the situation of children and supports the planning and monitoring of its activities. Children receiving its services provide information using a questionnaire. Personal data are stored in local offices, but information shared among regions and countries are less detailed. The KKSP Foundation in Indonesia has a database on children who are victims of violence including trafficking for its advocacy activities. The Philippine Center on Transnational Crime under the Office of the President operates a database on international crimes including trafficking in human beings. Information of the victims as well as the traffickers (regarding their personal details, information on their cases, and criminal organizations) are collected to facilitate monitoring of illegal activities and assist police operations.

An example of database providing bases for policy- making is the initiative of the Social Development and Human Security Office of Thailand in Chiang Mai and two other northern provinces. The database has information on health, education, migration and other matters of the residents in these areas that the various ministries collect, as well as information on entertainment facilities and areas requiring particular attention. The collected information are used in preparing policies and plans for preventing trafficking, responding swiftly to cases, and promoting cooperation with other relevant ministries and agencies. The Subaybay Bata Monitoring System of the Philippine Council for the Welfare of Children, an inter-agency body monitoring and evaluating the implementation of policies and programs for the welfare and protection of children, was another example introduced in the conference. In this scheme, data from the studies and reports from various ministries as well as information collected by the barangay (community) officials provide the basis for formulating policies and decision-making. The data are also used to promote dialogue and sharing of responsibilities among national and local officials.

The discussions centered on the importance of information security in all the initiatives presented, and the measures needed such as passwords, access restrictions, as well as keeping some data off the website. Issues regarding sharing of information between government agencies and NGOs were also pointed out. With initiatives involving information collection directly from the children, many speakers mentioned the necessity of keeping the questionnaires and user manuals short and easy for those taking the information. It was emphasized that the interest of the child should be the priority in all stages of the process.

On the final day of the Conference, the participants discussed and adopted a statement including recommendations towards a regional database.

The participants agreed on the need for a regional database to serve a number of purposes, namely:

  1. Provision of evidence for advocacy for the adoption and implementation of the human rights standards for trafficked children
  2. Provision of authoritative information about the issue
  3. Presentation of the real situation on trafficking of children for policy advocacy
  4. Identification of gaps on services being provided to victims
  5. Development of coordination among service providers from both government and NGOs and monitoring of governments initiatives
  6. Drawing up of regional trends on the work done on the issue.

(See next page for the full text of the conference state- ment and the recommendations regarding the establishment of a regional database system.)The Conference was attended by representatives of NGOs and government agencies in Southeast Asia involved in anti-child-trafficking programs. Terre des Hommes Netherlands, the European Commission and the Japan Foundation provided support.

For further information, please contact: Asia Acts Against Child Trafficking (Asia ACTs), Rms. 322 Philippine Social Science Center, Commonwealth Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, ph (632) 929-0822; fax (632) 929-0820; e-mail: asiaacts@tri-isys.com; www.stopchildtrafficking.info.

Endnotes

1. For more information on this seminar workshop, see "Protecting Children Against Trafficking: Southeast Asian Guidelines" FOCUS Asia-Pacific, Vol. 44, June 2006, HURIGHTS OSAKA, https://www.hurights.or.jp/asia-pacific/044/06.html On the Guidelines, see Seminar-Workshop on the Southeast Asian Guidelines for the Protection of the Rights of Children Victims of Trafficking, AsiaACTs against Child Trafficking, 2007.


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