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ICMEC Overview


  • Every day thousands of children are illegally taken from their homes, schools, and communities

  • Families, law enforcement, and governments must work together to find missing and exploited children and bring them home

  • The solution involves international coordination, and this is the sole purpose of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC)

Founded in 1998 and launched by the U.S.-based National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC), ICMEC works to identify and coordinate a global network of organizations fighting child sexual exploitation and abduction. As ICMEC grows in size and support, its work relies on the commitment of countless public and private organizations, all concerned with child safety and global communication. Rather than replace the efforts of these local agencies, ICMEC serves as a coordinator, facilitator, and enabler for the agencies by providing counsel, standards, tools, and resources to help maximize the individual and collective effectiveness of agencies worldwide.


Children are our world’s most valuable resource, but they remain society’s most vulnerable members. ICMEC was created to lead the first coordinated, global response to protect our world’s children from abduction and sexual exploitation. ICMEC’s work brings promise to children and families by

  • Establishing a global resource to find missing children and prevent child sexual exploitation

  • Creating national centers and affiliates worldwide

  • Building an international network to disseminate images of and information about missing and exploited children

  • Providing training to law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, legal professionals, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and government officials

  • Advocating for changes in laws, treaties, and systems to protect children worldwide

ICMEC’s multitrack platform addresses critical flaws in global cooperation and enhances the lines of communication among agencies devoted to helping missing and exploited children and their families. Global issues involving child sexual exploitation and pornography continue to be pervasive and are addressed through prevention, law enforcement, and policy. With the Internet, child pornographers now have a tool enabling them to trade and transmit images instantly around the world in virtual anonymity and with little risk of detection. ICMEC is leading the charge to fight this phenomenon and, while all of these issues cross borders, their solution remains an uncomplicated one of “it simply must end.”


ICMEC has built a universal network for missing children, allowing instant distribution of missing-child photographs and information via the Internet. The state-of-the-art, searchable database houses a single repository of missing children’s photographs and descriptive information for the world to view 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. As one of the most effective tools for recovery, law-enforcement agencies in each participating country enter missing-child cases, track leads, and report progress in a centralized location for law enforcement, families, media, government agencies, and NGOs to carefully monitor. Today there are 14 active web sites with nearly 3,000 missing children’s cases posted. An additional 10 countries are in various stages of development.

The active sites include:


The recovery of a missing child is often the direct result of a bystander recognizing a picture of the child and providing a location "tip"; therefore, the dissemination of posters of the missing child with a recent photograph is critical to the immediate launch of the search. NCMEC has used this strategy for nearly 20 years with much success. To date one in every six children featured in NCMEC’s photo-distribution effort is recovered as a direct result of someone recognizing that child’s photograph and calling authorities with that information.

As considerable numbers of children are abducted and transported internationally, ICMEC uses this same strategy to generate public awareness. ICMEC’s partnerships with multinational organizations, media, publishers, global corporations, and a host of other organizations provide a direct connection to the public and critical outreach. Interested partners agree to

  • Air or publish photographs of missing children provided and certified by ICMEC on an “as-needed” basis

  • Support a network that offers rapid response and dissemination of case information

  • Promote ICMEC’s web-based information system


The treaty officially titled the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and known as the “Hague Convention” was originally created to address international, child-abduction cases in a more uniform and consistent manner. Children caught in a conflict between parents, other family members, and differing legal jurisdictions often find themselves living in uncertain legal and emotional situations, unable to form or maintain a relationship with the parent who has been left behind. Despite the Hague Convention’s progress and good intentions, too many child-abduction cases remain unsolved. ICMEC has taken a leading role in advocating for more effective implementation of the Hague Convention by hosting international conferences, developing “practice guides” for Hague signatory nations, and securing national support from numerous countries.


The dissemination of sexually exploitive images of children is a major problem on the Internet. Its scale, nature, and global qualities requires widespread innovation and a unified response. To address this problem ICMEC is sponsoring a worldwide campaign against child pornography. ICMEC hosted the first global forum on child pornography to develop an action plan, now known as “The Dublin Plan,” to

  • Raise public awareness about this complex, difficult problem

  • Make child pornography a higher priority for policymakers worldwide

Next steps will include research and advocacy as ICMEC raises awareness of and formulates solutions for this global problem.


The search for missing and exploited children and the protection of children from victimization requires a coordinated, comprehensive, and collaborative international approach. ICMEC oversees the development of a multinational network of agencies that coordinate efforts and share best practices. Organizations become involved with ICMEC on one of two levels, either as an affiliate or an associate. These programs and initiatives are already helping to recover and protect more missing and exploited children.


At the height of the Bosnian conflict in 1996, the Mayor of Tuzla visited the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. He pleaded, “We have parents searching for missing children; children searching for missing parents; and humanitarian relief organizations providing us with food, blankets, and medical supplies. Can you help?” From there the nonprofit ICMEC was born under the careful guidance of NCMEC, connecting the dots toward a mission of activism, policy development, and international teamwork.

World leaders have looked to and visited NCMEC, a private, nonprofit organization working with the U.S. Department of Justice and authorized by the U.S. Congress. Created in 1984 as a public-private partnership serving as a national clearinghouse for information on missing children and the prevention of child victimization, NCMEC works every day to prevent the needless crimes that are committed against children and help those victims and their families.

Success for both ICMEC and NCMEC, collocated in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.A., rely on the strength of human resources; technological evaluation; and aggressive private, public, and community partnerships. In many parts of the world today, there is still a void on the issue of missing and exploited children. ICMEC seeks to fill that void by becoming a voice of change and conduit for making the world a safer place for our youth. As globalism draws the world closer, NCMEC’s history is extended as its best practices are used to strengthen international networks through ICMEC.


ICMEC’s mission relies on the generous contributions of individuals, companies, and foundations. To make a donation, please contact Doug Elliott at 001.703.838.8379 or delliott@icmec.org. You can also send your donation directly to the address below. Thank you. Your contribution makes a real difference in ICMEC’s work towards the international prevention and awareness of missing and exploited children.

If you are interested in learning more about the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, please contact us at

International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children
Charles B. Wang International Children’s Building
699 Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-3175

Telephone: 001.703.274.3900
Fax: 001.703.274.2222
Email: information@icmec.org