“African children are our future. It is our responsibility to protect them” – Hon. Chief CHARUMBIRA

 

The Pan-African Parliamentary Forum on Online Child Sexual Exploitation (OCSE) has started ahead of the Sitting of the Permanent Committees in Midrand, South Africa.

Jointly convened by the Department of Social Affairs of the African Union Commission (AUC) and the PAP, the consultation aims to harness the role of Parliamentarians in policy formulation and ensuring prevention and prosecution of OCSE.

In his opening remarks, on behalf of the President of the PAP, 4th Vice-President Hon. Chief Fortune CHARUMBIRA hailed the collaboration between the continental Parliament and the Commission in tackling the dangers posed by OCSE in Africa. He further explained that finding solutions to OCSE will require that AU organs work together in a complimentary manner, in line with their respective mandates.

“We cannot improve the lives of Africans without engaging with them. This is precisely why the PAP was established; so that it acts as a bridge between our people and the highest spheres of our Union. We are the platform through which Africans can participate in the affairs of the AU. We are grateful to the Department of Social Affairs for recognizing this role and associating the PAP in the process of finding solutions to the negative side of internet on our children,” said Hon. Charumbira.

Hon. Charumbira also called on the AU institutions to make the protection of children a priority while commanding Parliamentarians to fully play their role.

“We have made efforts to improve the lives of our people by implementing flagship projects contained in Agenda2063. As we continue to make strides, let’s not leave our children behind. They are our future. We will not reach maximum development if cannot protect our future. The advent of technology has brought a lot of advancement so as defects. Our children are bearing the brunt of the defects by being exploited online. Parliamentarians need to play their role through the dissemination of information and formulation of adequate legislation.”

Hon. Lucia Mendes dos PASSOS, Chairperson of the PAP Permanent Committee on Gender, Family, Youth and People with Disability called for a larger coalition across all sectors of society in order to address the issue of OCSE. She also advocated for more experience-sharing among countries and experts.

“In the African culture, a child belongs to the community. I therefore call on parents, religious organisations, civil society and government stakeholders to increase vigilance and join the combat against OCSE that is threatening the future of our continent. It is also important that legislators enhance their oversight duties to ensure that our governments are not neglectful and given the adequate resources to curb the rise of OCSE,” says Hon.  Mendes dos Passos.

Speaking on behalf of the AUC Commissioner for Social Affairs, Dr. Jane Marie ONGOLO, Head of the Social Welfare Division at the AUC says that despite commitments, the response from AU member states hasn’t matched the scale of the problem posed by OCSE. She believes Parliamentarians hold the key to a long-lasting solution.

“This is our first joint initiative with the PAP, and I am already hopeful of the prospects. Parliamentarians have the power influence decisions and we count on this influence to advance the agenda against OCSE. The exploitation of our children online is not a challenge we can afford to run away from. We have to face it. It is precisely why AU organs have to collaborate and harmonize efforts to prevail against this evil of the 21st Century.”

The first day of the forum on OCSE included a presentation on global threat assessment by UNICEF as well as an impact overview by ECPAT, child right’s organisation that is solely focusing on ending the sexual exploitation of children. Parliamentarians were also briefed on the continental context of OCSE; good practices; and a model for national response.

The meeting will be concluded on 29 February 2020.