On August 1, 2013, at a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, ECPAT International was announced as the 2013 recipient of the Hilton Humanitarian Prize.

On August 1, 2013, at a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, ECPAT International was announced as the 2013 recipient of the Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Started 20 years ago as a campaign against child sex tourism in Asia, ECPAT has grown into the leading global network exclusively dedicated to ending child prostitution, child pornography and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes. In its role as Secretariat, ECPAT oversees 81 members that include 1,450 individual organizations in 74 countries.

ECPAT joins 17 other Hilton Humanitarian Prize laureates in being recognized for its outstanding work in alleviating human suffering around the world. This year, the independent international jury felt ECPAT’s work optimized the values and goals of the Hilton Prize, and that now was the time for this issue to gain wider exposure. Hilton Prize juror Strive Masiyiwa noted, “Those of us on the jury were impressed with ECPAT’s leadership in addressing the explosion of child sexual exploitation and forging a worldwide coalition of NGOs, UN agencies, private sector and law enforcement entities to put a stop to these vile activities.”

The statistics surrounding commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) are grim. According to the International Labour Organization, up to 1.8 million children are exploited in the commercial sex industry or pornography worldwide. Speaking to the issue’s global importance, Simone Monasebian, New York chief of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) explains, “Every single country is either an origin, transit or destination country of human trafficking—meaning either the victims come from that country, pass through that country, or wind up in that country.”

Although the majority of the attention received by the issue focuses on adolescent girls, boys encompass a growing population of victims of exploitation, and are historically underserved by service agencies and law enforcement. Boys often remain invisible due to an unwillingness to self-identify as sexually exploited, lack of screenings by law enforcement and social service agencies, and limited outreach by anti-trafficking organizations to areas known for male prostitution. ECPAT hopes to encourage advocacy for this largely ignored population.

Finding Solutions

The sheer scale of exploitation requires that governments, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector work together to combat the commercial sex industry. ECPAT believes education is a key component in preventing sexual exploitation, and its projects include activities such as school sponsorship, informal education, and vocational training to educate children and give them alternatives to entering the commercial sex industry. ECPAT has also pioneered a youth movement of survivors and at-risk children, empowering them to run advocacy campaigns, lobby governments, and raise awareness to protect children from exploitation.

Recent advocacy efforts include:

  • Presented more than 7 million campaign petitions to the UN Human Rights Council in its Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People campaign. This campaign was conducted in partnership with The Body Shop, and is the largest human rights petition on a single issue ever presented to the United Nations.
  • ECPAT developed The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism. It is considered the most efficient industry tool to combat child sex tourism and includes more than 1,000 private sector members from 40+ countries working in the hospitality, tourism and technology fields.
  • In partnership with UNICEF and the NGO group for the Committee on the Rights of the Child, ECPAT was a driving force behind three World Congresses focusing global efforts against CSEC. Since the first meeting, more than 160 countries have signed the Stockholm Declaration and Agenda for Action.

ECPAT will be formally presented with the Hilton Humanitarian Prize at a dinner at The Waldorf Astoria New York on October 23, 2013.