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International aid agencies call for tigher measures against paedophiles

The Swiss children's aid foundation, Terre des Hommes, says that a code of conduct is urgently needed to prevent child abuse by infiltrators of international development agencies.

This content was published on January 28, 2000 - 19:17

The Swiss children's aid foundation, Terre des Hommes, says that a code of conduct is urgently needed to prevent child abuse by infiltrators of international development agencies.

Terre des Hommes made the call at an international seminar near Zurich on the prevention of paedophile activity in organisations working abroad. Some 60 participants representing 30 children's aid agencies worldwide made a number of recommendations at the end of the three-day event.

There were calls for tougher screening of candidates during recruitment, closer evaluation of people working in the field and institutional co-operation among the agencies.

The code of conduct would serve as a kind of ethical basis for both the agencies and their employees. Anyone convicted of paedophile activities would have their contracts terminated and this would be circulated to all those agencies who were party to the code.

"There is urgency for such a code because what we can read about paedophilia promotion in the Internet, for example, is absolutely appalling," said Bernard Boëton, head of the children's rights division of Terre des Hommes.

Seminar participants heard that international development agencies are now at a greater risk than ever before of being targeted by sex offenders.

Crackdowns in many industrialised countries have flushed suspected and convicted sex offenders out of human services sectors in some countries, participants heard.

"If sex offenders are being denied access to children in their own country, it is logical they will explore opportunities elsewhere," said Bernadette McMenamin, national director of ECPAT Australia, an international campaign to end sexual exploitation of children. But she said the problem of infiltration could not be stopped entirely.

"Organisations can, however, reduce the risk of infiltration by becoming more aware, open and vigilant," she added.

By Robert Brookes

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