|© UNICEF/HQ96-1192/ Pirozzi|
|Ministers from Islamic countries took a strong stand for children at the First Islamic Ministerial Conference on the Child.|
By David Koch
RABAT, Morocco, 9 November 2005 – The First Islamic Ministerial Conference on the Child has concluded its historic two-day meeting with the issuance of a strong Declaration, calling for an end to harmful traditional practices, elimination of gender disparity in education, and urgent action to address the unacceptably high rates of child and maternal mortality in some Islamic countries.
“The Conference and its outcomes come at a particularly important time for the Islamic world,” said Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). “As the OIC works to re-focus our efforts on practical actions that will bring real and lasting benefits to Member States and the broader Muslim Ummah, nothing could be more strategic than to unite around the rights and well-being of children.”
The conference, co-organized by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), UNICEF and the OIC, was hailed as a major success by the more than 200 participants. It was attended by ministers from nearly 50 Islamic countries and representatives of more than 20 international, Arab and Islamic organisations.
“The tremendous success of this Conference reaffirms the central value of children in Islamic culture and demonstrates to the international community the determination of the Islamic Ummah to build a just, peaceful and prosperous world by investing in its children,” said Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director-General of ISESCO.
"UNICEF is privileged to have been part of the dynamic process that has led to such a strong Declaration – a Declaration that addresses head-on all of the major challenges confronting children in OIC countries, and does so in a way that calls for action to be supported by ever-greater Islamic solidarity," said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah, who headed the organization’s delegation at the Conference. "We look forward to continuing this important work with our valued partners, the OIC and ISESCO."
|© UNICEF Morocco/2005/ Koch|
|Delegates at the Conference expressed a shared sense of alarm over the dire situation for children in many Islamic countries, and the need for an urgent collective response.|
The Conference has been characterized by candid and open discussions. Participants shared their experiences in dealing successfully with difficult issues, such as child marriage, female genital mutilation or gender discrimination in education.
Delegates also expressed a shared sense of alarm over the dire situation for children in many Islamic countries, and the need for an urgent collective response.
One of the participants was Mona Rishmawi, who is Legal Advisor for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and who is herself originally from the occupied Palestinian territories. She reflected on how this conference was very different from previous events she has attended: “First, it’s very dynamic and frank. People are talking about their own problems in a very open way. They are addressing ways in which they can confront them.
“People feel that they share the same grounds, and I think the discussion is much more elaborate. Many OIC member states are embarking on strategies and plans of action for the protection of the rights of the child, and gathering like this gives us new ideas,” said Ms. Rishmawi.
There was broad agreement among participants that active partnerships among member states of the OIC, as well as with civil society and the private sector, are essential to provide the necessary funding and technical expertise to make a meaningful difference for the children of the Islamic world.
9 November 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on the wrap up of the Conference.
8 November 2005:
Mona Rishmawi, Legal Advisor of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, talks about why this Conference was special.
7 November 2005:
Excerpt from UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman’s video address to the First Islamic Ministerial Conference on the Child