Human Dignity Foundation, a private funder focused on children’s rights, is establishing an independent global data institute for child safety at the University of Edinburgh.
The new institute will gather the most current, reliable and evidence-based data on child sexual exploitation and abuse. It will use insights from the data to inform policy and drive sustainable and coordinated action to support vulnerable children across the world.
Child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) is growing at an alarming rate, experts say. The action needed to end it is hampered by a lack of reliable global prevalence data. The data that does exist is of mixed quality and not comparable or standardised between countries.
The institute will be led by Paul Stanfield, Executive Director elect. His extensive international career as a senior law enforcement officer includes serving at Interpol and the UK National Crime Agency.
Mr Stanfield has long championed the use of data to gain a better understanding of the abuse and exploitation of children. His priority is to use better data to drive activity and secure resources to protect these vulnerable children globally.
The institute will improve and standardise the collection of prevalence data by developing best-in-class methods. Experts from the institute will work closely with colleagues at the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Collaborative and evidence-based effort
The data will be accessible to suitably accredited users who need it, such as governments, civil society and other partners. Ethical use of the data will be paramount. A global index and dashboard will help policy makers, law enforcement and practitioners.
The inclusion and perspectives of children and survivors of sexual exploitation and abuse will contribute to data design, analysis, and the interpretation and reporting of findings.
The institute will forge partnerships with active organisations whenever possible. Two already secured are with Together for Girls and the WeProtect Global Alliance, both are organisations that fight child sexual exploitation and abuse.
These alliances are particularly significant because the CSEA sector is often fragmented. For example, online and offline violence may be treated as separate problems, rather than two parts of a unified continuum of abuse and exploitation.
Iain Stewart, UK Government Minister for Scotland, said:
“The global fight against the abuse of children depends on us strengthening the arsenal of information and data we have available. Edinburgh is at the forefront of UK research in this area and is supported by the UK Government through our £260 million investment in the Data Driven Innovation programme, as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.”
University of Edinburgh expertise
The institute is supported by the University of Edinburgh’s scientific expertise, including the End Violence Lab, Moray House School of Education, Edinburgh Futures Institute, the Data-Driven Innovation Programme and the Global Health Academy.
This work will complement Edinburgh Futures Institute’s focus on research supporting children and young people across a range of areas and disciplinary backgrounds. EFI is supporting crosscutting work in data innovation to help address the challenges posed by this complex area.
Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, said:
“We are extremely grateful for the generous support from Human Dignity Foundation to empower our researchers and partners to address such a complex and insufficiently understood issue. The University is committed to using our research to address social and global challenges. It is hard to imagine an opportunity more in line with our mission than this.”