Professionals from countries throughout the Baltic Sea region concerned with sexual abuse against children met in Lübeck 17-18 September to further develop their mutual IT network. This network, the Child Centre, was launched earlier in 2001 and acts as a common resource for officials, specialists and voluntary organizations.
“Combating sexual abuse of children in all its forms requires increasingly vigorous international co-operation and networking between all agencies devoted to protecting children”, Mr. Ulrich Paschold from the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Elderly Citizens, Youth and Women, said in his opening statement.
The Child Protection Centres in Lübeck and nearby Kiel hosted the meeting. These centres have been designated by Germany as its so-called competence centres to network with other professionals in the region. Working on a daily basis with abused children, the centres will share their skills and knowledge with colleagues in neighboring countries. All countries have also appointed national co-ordinators that hold overall content responsibility in their respective countries.
Work on the IT network started in 1999 with strong support from the eleven Baltic Sea countries. Funding has been provided by the Swedish and Norwegian governments as well as the European Commission. With the network now established, responsibility will in the near future permanently be established under the auspices of the Council of the Baltic Sea States.
Participants emphasized the importance of the Child Centre, particularly with the growing awareness of sexual abuse perpetrated against children. “Trafficking, child prostitution and child pornography is a growing problem in our region, in Europe and in the world as a whole,” said Ingrid Åkerman who heads the project.
The network provides opportunities to seek advice and guidance in the difficult task of caring for and rehabilitating abused children. “We have now together created the Child Centre for use by all of us who are dedicated to the welfare of children in our region”, Ingrid Åkerman stated. ” I am convinced that sharing knowledge is a crucial element in assisting children.”