ECPAT International, the umbrella organisation for ECPAT UK and 84 other children’s rights organisations across the world, is today celebrating 25 years of protecting children from exploitation.

Twenty-five years to the day, a group of concerned researchers and social workers, representing a number of organisations and faith-based groups from Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, India and other places gathered in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, for a consultation on sexual abuse of children in tourism in Asia. The consultation led to the launch of the first ECPAT campaign ‘to end the sexual abuse of children by tourists’.

The organisation originated in Bangkok in 1990 as a campaign to End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (what ECPAT originally stood for). This initial focus and the desire for global attention on these issues culminated in the World Congress against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children held in Stockholm, Sweden, 27 – 31 August 1996. The Congress was co-organised by ECPAT, UNICEF and the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It concluded with the unanimous adoption of the Stockholm Declaration and the Agenda for Action to which 122 States committed themselves to.

At the Congress it was agreed that ECPAT should have a wider mandate encompassing children sexually exploited in online abuse and trafficking all over the world. From a campaign focusing on children in Asia it grew into a global movement tackling child exploitation.

Today, ECPAT International is the secretariat of a global network of 85 organisations working together in 77 countries for the elimination of child exploitation, including child sexual exploitation in tourism, child trafficking and online abusive images of children.

ECPAT UK is the national representative of the international ECPAT network of 85 children's rights organisations in 77 countries, dedicated to ending the exploitation of children. As a leading child rights organisation in the UK, ECPAT UK's targeted campaigns and activities have been successful in improving child protection, especially via the introduction of new UK legislation and the ratification of relevant international conventions. We have also increased awareness about child trafficking, and the exploitation and abuse of children by British sex offenders at home and abroad.

Bharti Patel, ECPAT UK CEO, said: “We are delighted to be a part of the global movement to eradicate violence against children. The abuse of children in tourism, trafficking and other forms of violence are borderless crimes - only a coordinated effort on the scale organised by the global ECPAT networks can meet its challenges.

“On behalf of the ECPAT UK board, the executive and staff, I would like to extend my very warm congratulations to ECPAT International. The existence of this very special organisation 25 years on highlights the need to do more to combat crimes against children.”

Carol Bellamy, Chair of the Board of Trustees of ECPAT International concurred: “The 25th anniversary of ECPAT is a moment to mark, remember and celebrate but not a time to rest. Indeed, the experts consulted by ECPAT in 2014 all concurred that the magnitude and scope of sexual exploitation of children is actually expanding. This is the reality to face in 2015: The end of sexual exploitation of children still remains very much unfinished business.”