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In 1990, researchers at a tourism consultation in Thailand exposed the degree to which child prostitution was increasing in many Asian countries. The consultation ended with a determination to take action, and ECPAT was established as a three-year campaign focused on ending the 'commercial' aspect of the sexual exploitation of children.
The early years of ECPAT's work was concentrated on expanding the campaign in the region; defining its strategy; and establishing relationships with the media, police authorities, state institutions and international organizations. In March 1991, ECPAT produced its first newsletter, and in 1992, their first book - The Child and the Tourist - was published. In 1996, a consultation called 'Enforcing the Law' held in Bangkok brought together more than 50 law enforcement officers from more than 17 countries, giving them an opportunity to review new laws and refine strategies for monitoring, arresting and prosecuting exploiters.
ECPAT ceased to be a regional campaign and became a global non-governmental organization (NGO). It is now a network comprised of an International Secretariat based in Thailand. It has 81 member organizations comprised of 1,450 individual organizations in 74 countries.
ECPAT links local organizations to the broader child rights community in order to form a global social movement for the protection of children from sexual exploitation. It seeks to encourage the world community to ensure that children enjoy their fundamental rights, free and secure from all forms of commercial sexual exploitation.