Child ALERT is part of the global ECPAT International movement founded in the early 1990s in Asia by a small team including the current Honorary President of ECPAT International, Ron O’Grady – a New Zealander. The initial focus of ECPAT was to end child sexual exploitation related through sex tourism in the Asia region. The ECPAT network has expanded from four groups (all in Asia) prior to the Stockholm World Congress in 1996, to 80 groups in over 75 different countries by 2010. All of these groups are independent organisations or coalitions working against commercial sexual exploitation of children. This growth was encouraged by a second Congress in Yokohama in 2001 and a further World Congress III in Rio during November 2008.
The ECPAT network as a whole is composed of the ECPAT groups, who gather every three years and form the International Assembly; the International Board, elected by the International Assembly; and the International Secretariat, as the origin of the movement, and the driving force behind it. The International Secretariat also links with international non-governmental and inter-governmental organisations (Interpol, World Tourism Organisation, and various United Nations agencies, especially UNICEF and ILO-IPEC) for exchange of skills, information, and advocacy purposes. Linkages with all these organisations bring external pressures to bear on national governments to implement the Stockholm Declaration and Agenda for Action.
The strength of the ECPAT movement is based on its activities at local, national and international levels. These activities empower the constituents of the movement in a number of ways. The work of the national and affiliate groups at local and national level validates the role of the International Secretariat. At the same time, the international activities carried out and/or promoted and/or assisted by the Secretariat give strength and credibility to the individual groups. The combination of the work of all the ECPAT actors gives the movement an increasing status and authority in international circles.
Within the ECPAT network, groups have different roles and focus depending on the context of the country/region they operate in.