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Down to Zero

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 (Part of Cordaid) work together aiming to end commercial sexual exploitation in twelve countries in Asia and Latin America together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

Down to Zero implements two programmes, Voice for Change and Building Back Better, that enable children and young people to defend their own rights, support communities to become safer and protective of their children against sexual exploitation, and helps governments to improve and implement related policies, laws and regulations. The Alliance also collaborates with the private sector, for example in the tourist industry.

Building Back Better

The economic stress and disruption to education resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak is increasing the cases of  sexual exploitation of children.

Vulnerable children in Latin America and in Asia are less able to protect themselves from the impact of the pandemic. They urgently need protection during this difficult time. 

Down To Zero, an alliance of Terre des Hommes Netherlands (lead), Plan International Netherlands, Defence for Children - ECPAT, Free a Girl and ICCO Cooperation, aims to ensure that children and youth are better protected when at risk or victim of sexual exploitation, during and in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Down To Zero’s Building Back Better program is ensuring that children are able to:

  • Get access to services to protect, rehabilitate, reintegrate and reduce their vulnerability.
  • Advocate for continued SEC prevention and response.

In parallel, the program is strengthening:

  • Parents, caregivers, and community leaders to provide a protective shield around children.
  • Actors in the Child Protection System to prevent and advocate for protection.
  • Public institutions and the private sector prioritize SEC within the child protection agenda.

The Building Back Better program is aiming to help more than 100.000 individuals and 1000 organisations in Asia (India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand) and in Latin America (Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Nicaragua, Brazil, Dominican Republic).

Voice for Change

Governments have the primary responsibility for putting in place the appropriate legislation and child protection system (including services), to prevent and protect children from sexual exploitation. However, in the countries Down to Zero operates in, child protection systems suffer from policy-flaws, poor implementation and enforcement of laws, little investment in protective services and lengthy court proceedings. Child Protection Systems in the 5 target countries are not sufficiently child-, youth- and gender-sensitive, there is often low political commitment and insufficient capacity to implement Child Protection Systems. 

‘Youth Voices for Change’ is an initiative of the Down To Zero Alliance that seeks to prevent the sexual
exploitation of children and adolescents by amplifying the voices of young leaders for change in Latin America and Asia.

The goal is to position young leaders as central agents of change, to improve child protection systems in Asia and Latin America through lobby & advocacy and capacity building at local, regional, national and cross-border level to international level.

Latest news

October 14th, 2021

Down to Zero: many achievements, but fight against sexual exploitation remains urgent

The Down to Zero programme aims to end the sexual exploitation of children and young people in ten countries i…

October 14th, 2021

Voice for Change final report 2020-2021

The Voice for Change programme focuses on eliminating sexual exploitation of children (SEC). Voice for Change…

March 9th, 2021

A vote against sexual exploitation

In 2018 photographer Marieke van der Velden visited two shelters supported by Down to Zero in Thailand. She po…

March 11th, 2021

Report Down to Zero programme End Term Evaluation 2020

The Down to Zero (DtZ) Alliance is a five-year (2016-2020) partnership between the Dutch Ministry of Foreign…

August 2nd, 2021

Down to Zero Annual Report 2020

The DtZ Annual Report 2020 is the final report of the Down to Zero Alliance programme 2016-2020. The Down to Z…

September 11th, 2020

Mimi’s Journey to Recovery

Mimi is a 12-year-old girl from Batam, Indonesia. She comes from a poor family where they often move and rent…

Youth Voices for Change

Youth Voices for Change is an initiative of the Down To Zero Alliance, with the goal of uniting voices and opening spaces for young people to speak out, question and share their messages to prevent the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents in Latin America and Asia.



In many instances, sexual exploitation concerns girls and young women. This is the case in areas where women and girls are often considered inferior. On top of that, in many countries the legislation to protect them has not been put in place. In refugee camps and during large events such as the FIFA World Cup, girls are also extremely vulnerable to sexual exploitation. As more and more people can access the Internet, we see an increased problem here as well. At any time of the day, an estimated 750,000 men are looking online for sex with minors.

This is me

Photographer Marieke van der Velden visited ‘Down to Zero’ project in Thailand. 

She spoke to the children victims of sexual exploitation about what it meant for them to receive support and get a perspective on the future again. What do they look like when they are allowed to draw themselves? Behind the safety of the mask, they shed light on themselves.


What we do

The Down to Zero alliance addresses the sexual exploitation of children in ten countries by:

  • Enabling children and adolescents to defend their own rights.
  • Helping communities to better protect their children from sexual exploitation.
  • Improving and implementing relevant policies, laws and regulations in Asia and Latin America.
  • Cooperating with the industry to for example prevent and address sexual exploitation of children in the tourism sector.


The Down to Zero programme focuses on four strategic objectives to ban commercial sexual exploitation of children in ten countries:

Raising awareness

Safe environment

Policies, action plans and protocols

Involving market leaders & industry

Our results

Our achieved results are mentioned per year in the annual report.

Building Back Better report 2022

Download the report of the Building Back Better programme

Voice for Change final report 2020-2021

The Annual Report 2019

The Annual Report 2018

The Annual Report 2017

The Annual Report 2016

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