CAIRO, 11 April 2005 – With solid progress for children achieved in the last decade, Arab nations have come a long way in reaching global development targets, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah said today in Cairo.
UNICEF presented highlights of “An Arab World Fit For Children”, a milestone review of progress achieved and pending challenges facing the children and young people living in Arab countries at present.
Carried out by UNICEF at the request of the Secretary General of the LAS, the study stresses the need for increased investment in children and reflects on priority areas for the development and implementation of the 2004-2015 Arab Plan of Action For Children, issued by last year’s Arab Summit last year in Tunis.
“I am confident that future dialogue on the findings of this report will help address one of the key developmental issues that has so far remained largely absent from the ongoing reform debate in the Arab world: that is the issue of children”, Rima Salah told media representatives at the LAS.
Mixed challenges in a region mired by uncertainty
The 1990s saw major progress in the region with rapid reduction in child mortality rates and major improvements in immunisation; access to clean water and increased percentages of children in school. Yet some 7.5 million Arab children are out of school, 13.5 million are working and several millions are affected by armed conflict or threatened by other forms of violence, abuse and lack of opportunities to participate in decision making.
“We need to empower young people and allow them to become assets in the development process. We recognise the need to engage young people in finding solutions. We need to work with the youth to address issues of curriculum reform, HIV / AIDS, and the status of young girls in society” Salah noted.
Protection measures in the Arab world need to be strengthened as children continue to face other forms of violence such as abuse, sexual exploitation, traditional harmful practices (early marriage, honour killings, FGM/C), etc.
Salah lauded the appeal by UNICEF Regional Goodwill Ambassador Mahmoud Kabil to revitalise contributions from Arab nations to conflict-ridden Darfur. She also expressed support to a recent Arab Summit Resolution on establishing a mechanism for coordinating humanitarian relief efforts. Kabil spoke of his recent visit to UNICEF projects in Darfur.
“Today, the Arab world has the opportunity to revitalise the reform debate and increase investments in children is sustained in the same way as the Asian Tigers, China and others”, Kabil stated.
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