This year, UNICEF has been utilizing the global platform that the 2014 World Cup provides as a method to boost advocacy.
While it is true that the competition brings people together and has many positive effects on the nations involved, the World Cup will unfortunately also result in the rise of more sinister practices.
For example, global sporting events like the World Cup almost always result in a significant boost in human trafficking.
Judy Harris Kluger, an affiliate of the nonprofit Sanctuary for Families, describes this phenomenon: “On the most basic level, any location that sees an exponential increase in large numbers of men traveling for entertainment will receive a proportion increase in those who purchase sex.”
In Brazil, where this year’s World Cup is being held, prostitution for those over 18 is legal. Unfortunately, many of the people on the streets selling sex are children, and UNICEF is trying to do something about it.
In order to combat child trafficking, UNICEF Brazil has created an app called Proteja Brasil that allows users to report incidences of exploitation or abuse. Witnesses can use the application to document the time, details and location of incidents. This information is sent directly to the authorities who can respond immediately.
In addition to reporting the exploitation of children, the app contains detailed information about exactly what constitutes child abuse, leaving users better educated and more able to protect youth from harm.
Despite the fact that the World Cup means remarkably high numbers of people will be exploited in sex trafficking, UNICEF still sees the tournament as having the potential to create positive change, saying, “The FIFA World Cup is not only a great sporting event, but a powerful opportunity to share messages about the profound and positive difference sport can make in the lives of children. It provides a chance to focus positive public attention on the special risks children face in host countries like Brazil and around the world and the special efforts we can take to protect them from those threats.”
Hopefully UNICEF’s efforts to protect children during this year’s World Cup will be effective. The tournament is essentially a massive world stage which the United Nations is trying to use to for good.
The U.N.’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the first match of this year’s World Cup and released a statement that highlights the tournament’s significance: “Sport has a unique ability to unite us, and to show us what we have in common…[The World Cup] is an occasion to celebrate the best values of sport: teamwork, fair play and mutual respect.”
— Emily Jablonski