On July 22, 2013, Dame was officially inaugurated as an International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Child Online Protection Chaplain in Geneva, Switzerland for her relentless efforts and pursuit for the protection and empowerment of children, not only in Nigeria, but in Africa.
It was indeed a moment of stock-taking for the First Lady, who listened to rapturous applause from the dignitaries in Geneva about some of the breathtaking initiatives of her Non-Governmental Organization, NGO – A. Aruera Reachout Foundation – whose main objective over the years, is the restoration of heart related solutions to kids across Africa and the empowerment of the children and youths through self-help projects and humanitarian gestures for alleviating the plight of the less privileged.
The Child Online Protection (COP) was initiated years back as a safer and more secure online experience for children against all forms of cyber threats and to make it safe for the children all over the world.
It is a firm belief that protection of children online is a global challenge which requires a global approach and that gave birth to the ITU launching of the Child Online Protection (COP) initiative in November, 2008, as a multi-stakeholder effort within the Global Cyber Security Agenda (GCA) framework aimed at bringing together parties from all sections of the global community to ensure a secure online experience for children everywhere.
COP was presented to the ITU Council in 2008 and has been endorsed by the UN Secretary-General, Heads of State, Ministers and heads of international organizations from around the world. The initiative works to establish international collaborating networks for promoting child online protection through information sharing, guidance and best practices on safe online behaviour and helping partners develop and implement concrete agenda. It has international affiliation with Interpol, UN IMPACT, UNIDIR, CHI, UNICRI, and it is also developing a threat assessment global report.
COP promotes a global culture of “Digital Citizenship” and encourages the establishment of cooperative arrangement for sharing information to eliminate and mitigate risks to children all over the world.
Hamadoun Toure, the Secretary-General of ITU expressed the goal of COP thus: “In this new digital world, we all have a special responsibility to ensure the safety and security of young people in the online world, just as we do offline.”
He also made specific policy statement that ITU will continue to work with the Office of the First Lady to strengthen her advocacy, not only in Nigeria but the entire African continent, which also pioneered the much awaited seminar soon to be hosted in Abuja in conjunction with the Office of the First Lady.
The Patron of Child Online Protection, Her Excellency, Laura Chinchilla, and President of Costa-Rica extended her good-will message to Dame (Dr.) Patience Jonathan by encouraging her that “the inauguration today signifies another milestone in the history of ITU and also opened another vista for ITU’s participation not only in Nigeria, but the entire Africa.”
Chinchilla said Dame should see herself as she is – a protector of women-folk and women’s rights – and should strive to carry the torch beyond the borders of Africa, echoing, “Individual rights without the fulfillment of duties cause cracks in society, democracy without responsibility undermines freedom.”
While on the world stage for investiture as the ITU Child Online Project Chaplain, Dame Jonathan said, it gives her a great pleasure henceforth to constantly work hand in hand with ITU, reputed as the oldest agency of the United Nations, having been founded in 1865.
Dame (Dr.) Patience Goodluck Jonathan said the investiture on her is most appreciated “because majority of our children and youths are among top users of the cyber space technology globally and the future of humanity depends significantly on the quality of children and youths, adding, “it is therefore notable that uncontrolled access to the worldwide web (Internet) comes with risks which pose severe dangers to the well-being and safety of children and youths.”
And for this reason, she pledges to join hands with ITU, through its implementation arm, the International Multi-lateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats (IMPACT), to secure the children of the world from the dangers of cyber space crimes.
The First Lady, Dame Jonathan beamed and beamed. That her excitement knew no bounds was understandable, as the assignment is obviously informed by her proven natural passion for the security, welfare and development of the vulnerable groups. These groups, she said, include the women, youths and children in Nigeria as well as across the African continent.
While reiterating that this new platform offers her the opportunity to extend this protective responsibility over all children in the world in line with the global UN convention on the rights of the child and the child’s rights act of 2003, she promised to work assiduously with the Patron for COP, Her Excellency, Madam Laura Chinchilla, President of the Federal Republic of Costa Rica, towards achieving the goal of child cyber protection.
While expressing her gratitude to the United Nations, ITU and other global partners for the investiture on her as a call to duty to humanity, but also a responsibility to the Almighty God, she gladly accepted the noble appointment.
Omoba Kenneth Aigbegbele is Media Adviser to the First Lady,
Federal Republic of Nigeria.