More than 700,000 images of sexual abuse are uploaded every day, a global conference in Abu Dhabi set up to combat online child exploitation has heard.
On the opening day of the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities forum on Monday - being held at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre - hundreds of religious leaders, industry heads and children's rights organisations and charities in attendance were urged to come together to safeguard children from cyber threats.
The two-day international gathering is being held under the authority of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, in partnership with a number of organisations, including the Child Dignity Alliance, Religions for Peace, the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, the Global Network of Religions for Children and Unicef.
Delegates at the forum, titled child dignity in the digital world, were told that “robust conversations” over protecting children from the sinister threats in the dark underbelly of the internet need to be had.
“We need to have a robust conversation on keeping our children safe,” said Sonya Ryan, founder of the Carly Ryan Foundation, a charity set to promote internet safety.
Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, called on people and nations to work together to tackle the issue.
“We are at a point in history where we all need to come together to further cultivate the safety and protection of our children,” he said.
Protecting children from abuse and exploitation online is a growing concern, with the Arab world's online community on the rise, said a Google chief.
“There are approximately 420 million people in the Arab World of which 80 million are online. We expect this to nearly double in the next three years. All from our youth,” said Selim Edde, head of public policy and government relations for the MENA region at Google.
Robbert Van Der Berg, executive director for End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (Ecpat) International, laid bare the chilling reality of online abuse.
“720,000 sexual abuse images uploaded every single day,” said Mr Van Der Berg.
Mohammed Humaid bin Dalmuj Al Dhaheri, secretary-general of the office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, said the event will be used to champion the rights of children across the globe.
“Together we stand in solidarity, along with leaders of faith, distinguished academic experts, and industry leaders, to protect every child’s right to dignity and safety online.”
He said that the event will provide faith leaders with the knowledge and tools they require to provide advice, comfort and support for children and their families.