A delegation from the United Arab Emirates presented a work paper titled “Child Online Protection” on Day 1 of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) forum. The forum is co-organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD, in close collaboration with the United Nations and sister agencies, and features participation of world renowned experts and specialists.

The work paper submitted by Lt. Colonel Faisal Mohammed Al Shimmari, CEO of the MoI’s Smart Government Program, discussed child protection. He noted that attempts by offenders to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice children and teenagers; possession of child sexual exploitation material especially and digital crime in general, are still grey areas that need to be treated further in many world countries.

Lt. Colonel Al Shimmari gave an overview of the Child Rights Law also known as the Wadeema's Law, which marked a milestone and a qualitative leap forward in the legislations enacted for child protection not only at the national level, but also at the regional and global levels, with a set of legal provisions aimed at enhancing protection within the 14 dimensions related to child protection. He confirmed that the law, after it has been declared effective, has represented a breakthrough in institutional work for child protection; and provided a framework for joint action between the relevant institutions; to develop the technical, procedural and regulatory enablers required to achieve the noble goals.

Lt. Colonel Al Shimmari reviewed the most prominent efforts made by the Ministry of Interior at the UAE in this regard, notably the launch of the HEMAYATI (meaning 'my protection') smart phone application, in order to enable parents to take advantage of the modern technologies to ensure protection for their children, by communicating with them in a safe and effective manner and locating their whereabouts. “In emergency cases, the app  provides the ability to forward the signal to the Operation Room with a single click in the form of a “Smart SOS”, including the geographic information necessary to determine the child's location”, he said.

Adding further, Lt. Colonel Al Shimmari said: “The UAE Ministry of Interior has identified the protection of children as one of its greatest priorities; the Ministry of Interior presented a cinema award called the 'Child Protection Award'. This stems out of the ministry’s firm belief in the importance of investing in new awareness means, such as films and film industry to motivate people to take part in the efforts to boost community awareness and appeal to people’s sentiments to achieve the noble goal and protect children from danger, inspired by famous international movies,  such as ‘TRUST 2010’ , ‘DISCONNECT 2012’ and other films that highlight the dangers of the internet so as to reinforce awareness efforts and purposeful film industry.”

He also pointed out that some projects, such as the “Protection project” submitted by Professor Dr. Mohammed Mattar, Executive Director of the Protection Project, the joint project between the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children “ICMEC”, can help to bridge the divide between legislative differences among countries of the world. He also praised the results of the workshop on “Legislation and Child protection”, which was organized by the end of October 2011, in collaboration with the organizers of “the Protection Project” and strengthened the child protection model law through benchmarking.

Furthermore, Lt. Colonel Al Shimmari stressed that the digital divide between law enforcement and criminals is a major issue. He also explained that criminals use advanced techniques and communication technologies, while some police stations in third world countries have no computers or internet connection nor the appropriate tools or enablers or technical training required to combat this heinous crime.

He also pointed out that Internet service providers, telecommunications companies, and technology  companies must take serious action in the fight against such crimes by financing, research and development efforts aimed at developing the tools and techniques to curb the misuse of technology used to exploit children. He explained that without key enablers, arrest and investigation efforts will not lead to satisfactory results and would not be able to keep pace with the rapid developments of such crime.

In conclusion, Lt. Colonel Al Shimmari noted that raising the awareness of children, parents, educators, law enforcement authorities, and legislators is just the beginning and should be followed by boosting understanding of the risks, impacts, and consequences of this crime on the future of victims, their families, and the society as a whole. “This approach would contribute to enhance prevention with a focus on victims, being the key element when dealing with such issues,” he said.
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