African Union Moves to Promote Child Online Safety
Child Online Africa and World Vision International -Ghana are pleased to announce a significant progress on the call on African leaders to consider Child Online Protection and give it the needed action. This call with the hashtag #OnlineSafety4Agenda2040 which was made in June 2018, has culminated in the Executive Council Decision Ex.CL/Dec.1017 (XXXIII) by the Africa Union on the issue.
The campaign which commenced on the 16th of June and ended on the 29th of June with a position paper presented to the African Union Commission. The call was to urge the African Union Commission working through the committee of Experts to design modalities to minimize the availability of child abuse materials online, Cyberbullying, Sexting among others without compromising on the children’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression. The continent wide hashtag campaign appealed to the Member States of the Africa Union to make a case for children which could guarantee their safety while they learn and explore online.
Children are invaluable to Africa’s development and Africa would achieve significant economic and social gains in the 21st Century if Africans are empowered to use Internet responsibly. Currently, Africa is considered the continent with the youngest population in the world with 63 percent of its population below 29years.
As a way to mark the Day of the African Child 2018 in June, J Initiative now Child Online Africa in partnership with World Vision International organized a hashtag campaign aimed at drawing African Heads of States and the ACERWC to be pragmatic in making sure that measures are put in place to protect children and young people of Africa online as well as have the ACERWC and the Agenda2040 documents reviewed. The theme as declared by the committee for the celebration was: “Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development” and Child Online Africa adopted #OnlineSafety4Agenda2040.
We are pleased to note that the leadership of the Africa Union have been listening and have made a decision on our call and we take their gesture to mean a strong political will to make this happen in the interest of our children. As it is often said, you cannot name a child that is not born; so we wish to request of the Union to ensure that child protection in the cyberspace is dealt with holistically to reflect digital literacy, safety and wise use.
This we believe can be achieved through the review of these already existing critical frameworks: African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the AU Convention on Cybersecurity and personal data protection and the Agenda 2040 which seats under the Africa Union Commission’s supervision.
Education remains the most useful tool in protecting vulnerable groups. Member States, Regional Economic Communities, industry and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) should collaborate to plan and implement a well-coordinated campaign that educates national populations on various ways children are abused within the Cyber space and what they can do to help minimize it, if not prevent it.
We consider the decision by the AU “REQUESTS the ACERWC to scale up its work in safeguarding and promoting the rights and welfare of children in the cyberspaces, namely the protection of children’s information, rights to safety, informed choices and digital spaces” a step in the right direction.
We can promote Child Online Protection & Safety through a community of practice around the issues as it affects the African child. More importantly, as already mentioned above, we need to take into consideration existing frameworks and design what will work for us as Africans with Resolution 179 (REV.DUBAI,2018), the “WeProtect Model National Response”, “ITU Guidelines” among other relevant frameworks to inform an appropriate design which will be fit for purpose as far as the interest of the African child is concerned.