ITU has called on all countries to implement the number 116 111 for child helplines around the world.
The number, already in use in many countries, was recommended following a proposal from Child Helpline International (CHI), an organisation that represents child helplines globally.
CHI data shows that children and youngsters made more than 10,5-million calls to child helplines during each of the years 2005 and 2006. Child helplines have become an important mechanism for children to obtain support, counselling, referral and intervention.
"Child helplines have become a lifeline for vulnerable children in many countries," says Malcolm Johnson, director of ITU's Telecommunication Standardisation Bureau, "ITU endorses the proposal to give added momentum to one harmonized number – 116 111 – being adopted worldwide, in addition to well-established existing numbers.
"Having a single number that will work everywhere will benefit children in need around the world. As the number becomes embedded in the global consciousness, more and more children will profit."
Experts agree that if children have the opportunity to call a harmonised telephone number from wherever they are, more children will get the support they need. An easy-to-remember telephone number will help to better protect the rights and welfare of children around the world.
The importance of child helplines was endorsed at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in November 2005: "We encourage countries, and all other interested parties, to make available child helplines, taking into account the need for mobilisation of appropriate resources. For this purpose, easy-to-remember numbers, accessible from all phones and free of charge, should be made available."
ITU and CHI have been working together on the harmonisation of national telephone numbers for child helplines, which would be easy-to-remember, accessible from all phones and free of charge.
Following these discussions, ITU invites:
* All administrations to consider the allocation of the number 116 111 to give access to helplines run by organisations dedicated to the welfare of children;
* Countries that do not currently have child helplines to propose the use of 116 111 for telephone access to any child helplines that may be established in the future; and
* Countries that have existing child helplines operating on a variety of numbers to consider ways and means of introducing 116 111 in parallel to the other numbers being used.
116 111 is already being used in several European countries, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Portugal and Sweden. ITU's endorsement of the number will further facilitate adoption around the world.