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THE BIG PICTURE
The challenges facing children in Islamic countries exceed the capacity of any single organization - by far.
© UNICEF/ HQ03-0536E/ Pirozzi
Building a world that is fit for children requires the involvement of all sectors of society - individuals, governments, faith-based groups, academic institutions, inter-governmental agencies, philanthropic foundations, civil society organizations and, of course, children and young people themselves.
More than one quarter of the world's 2 billion children live in Muslim countries - members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) - where they represent more than 40 percent of the Muslim population. These children live in rich and poor countries on several continents. But the statistics make it clear that the 600 million children living in the world's Islamic countries are facing extraordinary challenges - from poverty and disease to education and protection - that warrant a special focus.
The OIC countries are building upon the strength of Islamic traditions - self-help, solidarity and protection of the vulnerable - to reaffirm their commitments to their children. They have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights instruments; now the challenge is to implement them. Active partnerships among OIC governments, as well as with regional and international financial institutions and the private sector, will be essential to provide the necessary funding and technical expertise to make a real difference for children. The flow of development assistance needs to be increased, with the wealthier OIC countries assuming their responsibility towards the poorer, and channeled more deliberately to address the needs of children.
As OIC countries contend with the pressures of economic globalization on often fragile local economies, they also face the challenges that globalization poses to values from which Islamic societies are founded. The tension between "Western Culture" and the Islamic world and the apparent alienation of so many young Muslims represents one of the principal current threats to international peace, security and development.
In keeping with UNICEF's mandate to protect the rights of all children, UNICEF has the opportunity and responsibility to mobilize leaders and citizens from the Islamic world to make a real and lasting difference for more than a quarter of the world's children. The systemic engagement of the Islamic world and the creation of lasting partnerships will not only improve the lives of individual children today, but accelerate human development and promote global peace and security.
CHILDREN OF THE ISLAMIC WORLD
A Photo Essay
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