Their session was opened by a policy officer from the Dutch Embassy in Bogotá. She spoke positive words about Down to Zero. This is a joint programme to fight commercial sexual exploitation of children in eleven countries in Latin America and Asia. Five child rights organisations work together to execute the programme. In Colombia the ICCO Cooperation and ECPAT are active.
Hotels create a protective environment by implementing The Code. The Code (short for “The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism”) is a multi-stakeholder initiative with the mission to provide awareness, tools and support to the tourism industry to prevent sexual exploitation of children. For instance hotels train their staff how to recognise sexual exploitation of children and distribute information to their guests about the phenomenon. This is crucial: not only staff can prevent sexual exploitation of children, but actually everyone can contribute just by using their eyes and ears.
From a great idea to the implementation in everyday life
ECPAT initiated The Code. In the Down to Zero Alliance in Colombia ECPAT works together with ICCO. These two CSO’s work through local partners. One of them is Renacer. This partner made a substantial difference in raising awareness and training Colombian private sector partners and government. Renacer staff introduced The Code to several Colombian hotel owners.
One of them is Mr. Hernán Franco. He is General Manager of a local Colombian hotel and explains how he discovered that protecting children was having an impact on his profits: “The Code adds a star to our hotel rating. If you have 5 stars, with the The Code you have 6. When our clients notice the signs and we explain what we stand for, that we fight for the protection of children against sexual exploitation, they are very pleased to stay with us and prefer us over other hotels, who do not state this explicitly.”
Targeting the informal sector as well
“I was pleasantly surprised”, explains Judith Flick, Programme Manager Down to Zero working at Terre des Hommes, “to hear that hotel owners believe that they have a responsibility even beyond their own businesses. They are convinced that their responsibility reaches beyond their own staff, to include the whole supply or value chain. Some also include informal suppliers that are related to their business, such as the massage salons, vendors, and other small businesses that serve tourists using their hotel.”
The Down to Zero programme
Commercial sexual exploitation of children is a phenomenon that affects 2 million children worldwide. In an alliance named 'Down to Zero' Terre des Hommes Netherlands (lead), Plan International Netherlands, Defence for Children - ECPAT, Free a Girl and ICCO Cooperation work together aiming to end commercial sexual exploitation in eleven countries in Asia and Latin America by 2020, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. This 5-year programme (2016-2020) enables children and young people to defend their own rights, enables communities to become safer and protective of their children against commercial sexual exploitation enables governments to improve and implement related policies, laws and regulations. The Alliance also collaborates with the private sector, for example in the tourist industry.