During the opening ceremony of the VGT Board Meeting that was held on Wednesday at the Emirates Palace Hotel, Abu Dhabi; the United Arab Emirates officially assumed the duties of chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT), following the unanimous selection of the UAE Ministry of Interior as the next chair of the international alliance.

In his welcoming speech, Lieutenant General Saif Abdullah Al Sha’far, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Interior, said that the election of the UAE to chair the Virtual Global Taskforce is testament from member countries and law enforcement agencies to the efficient efforts, competence and civilized values of the UAE police. It also recognizes the humanitarian and professional efforts, which personify the wise directives of the higher leadership and its tireless commitment to emphasizing the importance of joint international action to ensure a decent safe and secure life to all children, who are the builders of the future in a crime and risk-free world.

Moreover, Lt. General Al Sha’far stressed the MoI’s keenness to achieve the UAE vision to become one of the best countries in all areas of child protection. These efforts are in line with the vision of Lt. General HH Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, to make the UAE a humanitarian hub and a center of excellence in all areas of child protection.

He added: “The UAE endeavors constantly to be a beacon of culture and a center of excellence in child protection, to raise children’s awareness regarding the risks of online child sexual abuse, and to enhance family awareness through the media”. He also highlighted the development of strategic partnerships with the Virtual Global Taskforce in areas that contribute to making the Internet more secure and useful for children.

Furthermore, he pointed out to the commitment of the UAE to develop programs, and to activate areas of research, training, education and information exchange on a larger scale, as well as developing laws and regulations to deter child offenders, and firmly dealing with the perpetrators, and making the internet a safer place for children at risk of abuse and holding perpetrators accountable.

For his part, Major General Dr. Nasser Lakhrebani Al Nuaimi, Secretary General of the Office of HH Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, the new chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT), stressed the keenness of the United Arab Emirates to provide support the Virtual Global Taskforce in achieving its goals in child protection and cooperation in combating crimes that target children globally.

Additionally, he stressed that the upcoming phase will witness additional work and cooperation via the UAE’s instrumental role and its efforts aimed at protecting children and ensuring their safety, across the Arab world, and the A continent of Asia in general. “This also will be achieved by involving the largest number of law enforcement agencies within the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT), so as to pursue their policing role, advance business and pilot programs, and mobilize the world public opinion, and religious and awareness-raising civil institutions, in a bid to reinforce concerted efforts in the field child protection against all forms of abuse,” added Major General Al Nuaimi.

The new VGT chairman added that the meeting will constitute an opportunity to review and avail of the best technical policing practices, in addition to the legislative aspects related to the development and establishing the proper framework for international cooperation to protect children against risks. “The meeting will also be instrumental to reflect an honorable image of the UAE in international forums, and to introduce the initiatives and leading national projects that are based on the UAE Vision 2021, aimed at making the UAE one of the best countries in the world in child protection,” Major General Al Nuaimi emphasized.

Major General Al Nuaimi praised the results of the Atlas Global Initiative, which has achieved excellent results by shedding light on the investigations conducted by law enforcement agencies affiliated to the VGT, about the exchange and distribution of online child sexual abuse content. “This initiative was recently carried out with the participation of eight members, including the Ministry of Interior in United Arab Emirates,” he explained.

He said that the “Atlas” operation truly represents international cooperation and confirms the commitment to follow-up real work to protect children against potential dangers. The operation was carried out in accordance with an international plan for joint action at the federal level between police leaderships; and contributed to identifying and arresting a number of offenders.” He also noted that there were no victims of the Atlas operations in the UAE.

For his part, Associate Deputy Assistant Director (ADAD) for the Cyber Crimes Center (C3) within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), noted that Atlas operation has underlined the need for additional follow-up and international cooperation to protect children against online exploitation, as well as accountability for perpetrators of such crimes.

He added that innocent pictures or images of children can be digitally transformed into pornographic material that can spread very quickly over the Internet and stay in cyberspace indefinitely. “Each photo uploaded and traded on the Internet is a photograph of an actual crime scene, with a long-term effect and psychologically and physically devastating impacts, which confirms that the fight against online children exploitation requires joint international efforts,” he concluded.

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