As a non-profit civil society organisation (CSO), IFS operates on the whole BiH territory and is a member of the international organisation EMMAUS International, which operates on four continents. It is also a member of INHOPE and a member of ECPAT International. As a member of a BiH Child Protection Consortium comprising UNICEF BiH, Save the Children and IFS-EMMAUS, it is currently conducting an initiative to support the government of BiH and communities to address online sexual exploitation and abuse of children (CSEA). With over 263 employees, over 100 active volunteers and a network of offices over the whole country, IFS-EMMAUS operates throughout BiH and is one of the largest self-sustainable non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the country and beyond.
Why build a Safer Internet Centre in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Digital technologies are rapidly developing and currently, children are following and adapting to the fast pace of innovations faster and better than their parents and teachers. School programs do not provide education or information on online safety, except for a few information here and there. Parents are unaware of the risks their children are facing when online. Even the judiciary in Bosnia and Herzegovina is very slowly recognising digital and cybercrime and adapting the laws and regulations towards an efficient system that can prosecute such cases is therefore a slow process. One of the key milestones in child protection and education initiatives is the establishment of the first Safer Internet Centre (SIC) in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the establishment of a consortium for the protection of children which consists of three NGOs – IFS-EMMAUS, Save the Children and UNICEF. The SIC was established in November 2018, following the model of other Safer Internet Centres in Europe and around the globe. Many years of research and monitoring of the work of these centres have resulted in incorporating the positive practices of other Safer Internet Centres in the work of SIC BiH, as well as networking with other centres for mutual benefit. The SIC has been established as a multi-purpose communication platform with a focus on education, prevention and awareness raising through its four components:
- Awareness raising and information centre
- Hotline for reporting harmful/illegal content
- Helpline for support in cases of online violence/abuse (toll-free phone number)
- Youth panel for peer-to-peer education of young people on internet risks related to abuse and prevention
The SIC's awareness centre has been established through an innovative web platform launched in November 2018, aimed at raising awareness of and preventing child sexual abuse, and educating children, youth, parents, educators and the general public on online safety. Special and innovative informational materials are being developed and distributed among the target populations together with the implementation of workshops, trainings, focus groups and seminars for each of the target populations. We can say already that SIC BiH "traditionally" marks Safer Internet Day (SID) through a large number of educational and promotional activities together with an online quiz which attracts a great number of children who participate and the best ones winning the rewards.
Online safety in society
The very initiative for the establishment of a Safer Internet Centre in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been supported by the national Ministry of Security, as well as the establishment of the Consortium for child protection in BiH. A key milestone in enhancing the legal framework in Bosnia and Herzegovina related to CSEA prevention and protection was the signing of Protocols on the cooperation between the SIC and police agencies in all of three administrative units in Bosnia and Herzegovina. With the signing of the above-mentioned Protocols, it is anticipated that a better and timelier response and assistance will be provided by competent institutions in cases of children's exposure to violence or abuse, with clearer procedures for action and coordination in receiving and analysing content and submitting online reports of identified CSEA cases to law enforcement agencies.
Thanks to strong advocacy efforts, the Communication Regulatory Agency of BiH (CRA) agreed to lead the process of establishing the coordination platform between CRA, ICT and ISPs and law enforcement professionals. The Guidelines for socially responsible information and communication companies, in the field of protection of children from sexual exploitation and abuse, as the basis for the platform in BiH, have been developed, approved by the CRA, printed and distributed to all currently licensed internet services providers (ISPs).
Besides the above-mentioned institutions closely cooperating with the SIC, the Ministries of Education from all administrative units in Bosnia and Herzegovina (13 Ministries) support and cooperate with the SIC on the implementation of educational activities within schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
A closer look at the SIC + pilot programme
The SIC+ pilot programme enables the SIC BiH to improve its capacities through the additional training and support provided. This is necessary for ensuring efficiency in all aspects of the SIC's work. The SIC+ programme facilitates the process of exchange of positive practices, information sharing and training provision through its bursary scheme. The main benefit from the SIC+ programme is, for SIC BiH, having the ability to network with similar centres in the world as well to learn from more experienced SICs.
To learn more about the SIC+ programme, read our dedicated article on the Better Internet for Kids portal.