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Designation Mekong Summit: Partners Unite to Regulate volunteerism and End Orphanage Tourism

Phnom Penh, Cambodia—ECPAT International, Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) ECPAT Cambodia, Better Care Network, and Friends-International together with businesses and organisations from the Mekong Region joined a workshop hosted by the Destination Mekong Summit.

Acting upon the global call for robust child protection structures in travel and tourism – launched at the UN General Assembly 2023 – to stem unregulated and unskilled voluntourism and end orphanage tourism – partners from the Mekong Region agreed on collaborative strategies to protect children and vulnerable communities.

Key actions include:

Stop visits and tourism to orphanages and other forms of residential care that lead to a continuum of harm to children: family separation, institutional models of care, attachment disorders of children, risk of sexual exploitation and orphanage trafficking.

Regulate other forms of voluntourism with and for children including in schools, faith-based organizations, sport or child care centers, and elaborate measures for the prevention of the commodification of children as “tourism attractions”.

Promote regulated volunteering through background checks on volunteers and provide training and support to ensure that they understand and respect the rights of children as a requirement for meaningful and purposeful travel and tourism.

Strengthen enforcement of laws and policies to address all forms of exploitation of children, including the sale, sexual abuse and trafficking of children in travel and tourism.

Step up prevention of separation of children from their families, support family-based care and critical aftercare services for young people in existing care.

About ECPAT International: ECPAT International is a united front of 126 civil society organizations across over 100 nations, each passionately committed to the shared vision of eradicating the sexual exploitation of children. For more information, please visit www.ecpat.org and https://ecpat.org/global-events-in-new-york with a global call for robust child protection structures in travel and tourism.

About APLE Cambodia: APLE Cambodia is a registered Non-Governmental Organization, dedicated to strengthening the national social and legal systems for the protection of children who are either vulnerable or have fallen victim to sexual exploitation and abuse. APLE endeavors to achieve its mission through a comprehensive framework of programs. APLE plays a crucial role in shaping a community where children are free from sexual exploitation and abuse. Visit https://aplecambodia.org/ for more information.

About Better Care Network: The Better Care Network is an interagency network facilitating global information exchange and collaboration on the issue of children without adequate family care. BCN convenes the global working group ReThink Orphanages; a multi sector initiative dedicated to combating orphanage tourism, voluntourism and orphanage trafficking. Visit https://bettercarenetwork.org/ and https://rethinkorphanages.org/ for more information.

About Friends-International: Friends-International is a leading social enterprise, saving lives and building futures of the most marginalised children and youth, and their families, across SE Asia and the world. It powers a global child protection network, the ChildSafe Movement which enables everyone to play a part in protecting children through a range of tools including Tips for Travelers, Guidelines for Child Welfare in the Tourism Industry and advocacy campaigns against orphanage tourism and voluntourism with children. Visit friends-international.org and thinkchildsafe.org for more information.

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