'When My Time Is Up, Have I Done Enough?' - Global Mission to Eradicate Child Sexual Exploitation

22/07/2016 17:06 | Updated 24 July 2016

I recently had the incredible privilege of seeing the penultimate performance of the original cast of Hamilton in Manhattan. The closing sequence moved me to tears when Eliza Hamilton asked poignantly, "When my time is up... have I done enough?", and I couldn't help but think about the reason why I was in New York.

I travelled to the United Nations last week in partnership with Unicef and the WePROTECT Global Alliance to unite in a mission to eradicate all forms of violence against children, including a crime that challenges our very humanity - the sexual exploitation of children online.

There are over three billion people around the world with internet access and there are enormous benefits to an ever more connected society. But we must do more to ensure that the internet remains safe for young people to explore, create, dream and achieve their true potential.

The crime of online child sexual exploitation is one that most people find difficult to even talk about. But every day vulnerable children are living an unthinkable horror. We must do something and the solutions are within our grasp. Technology empowers equally, and criminals with a sexual interest in children are joining forces with other offenders to abuse vulnerable children on a mass scale in all corners of the world. This has to stop.

We in Britain are determined to do all we can. Technology might be the platform for abuse and exploitation but it's often also at the heart of the solution. The UK-based Internet Watch Foundation, using a technology developed by Microsoft called Photo DNA, has shared 19,000 digital identifiers of child abuse images with global technology companies, including Google, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, to enable them to delete corresponding images from their platforms. And efforts led by Google are beginning to tackle the problem of child sexual abuse material, working diligently to eliminate it from search results, YouTube and other platforms.

But no one company, or country, can solve these problems alone. By working together we can help countries around the world develop the skills they need to ensure an effective national response to protect our children.

Three years ago, with the support of former Prime Minister David Cameron, I founded an organisation called WePROTECT. Our mission is to eradicate online child sexual exploitation. We leverage the power of technology to rescue victims, thwart criminals and bring perpetrators to justice. In 2014 the UK held the WePROTECT Summit to bring partners from around the world together to end online child sexual exploitation. In 2015, the United Arab Emirates carried our mission forward and extended our reach by hosting the second WePROTECT global summit in Abu Dhabi.

This year we joined forces with the Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online, which was started by the United States and the EU in 2012. Together we have grown from strength to strength and we now form a movement of 70 countries, plus international and civil society organisations and major companies including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and TENCENT. Last week we published the WePROTECT Global Alliance strategy to set out our plan of action.

At the WePROTECT summit the UK pledged £50million over five years to stop child sexual exploitation. Last year's £10million partnership with Unicef has already supported significant programmes in 17 countries to rescue young people from unthinkable abuse and to bring perpetrators to justice, plus a global communications campaign #REPLYFORALL.

The next £40million will do even more. Also launched last week was the Global Partnership and Fund to End Violence Against Children at the UN, in partnership with Unicef and the World Health Organisation.

The Global Partnership will bring countries and organisations from around the world together to end violence against children. It is supported by the multi-donor Fund, through which the UK contribution will help tackle online child sexual exploitation.

The launch of the Global Partnership and Fund and the WePROTECT Global Alliance strategy are the latest steps to stamp out this crime. We are making great progress but will never stop until every child is safe from harm online.

I urge countries and organisations across the globe to consider what part they can play, whether it's donating to the fund or seeking funding to change children's lives. It is imperative we all work together to free them from the unimaginable nightmare of living with exploitation and abuse.