Working together

Promoting cooperation for children in the Islamic world

© UNICEF/HQ05-1141/Markisz
More than 600 million children live in Islamic nations or countries with large Muslim populations, and they are a significant focus for UNICEF.

One of several initiatives to promote dialogue and sustain cooperation was the First Islamic Ministerial Conference on the Child, jointly organized by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) and UNICEF. Called for by the ‘Child Care and Protection in the Islamic World’ resolution adopted by the Islamic Summit in 2003, the conference was held in Morocco and attended by delegations from 47 governments and around 20 international organizations.

The conference created a window of opportunity to address problems – from poverty and disease to children’s lack of education and protection – through the engagement of political and religious leadership. Participants adopted a Declaration emphasizing the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a framework for protecting and promoting rights, and renewing a call to urgent action to reach the goals of the Millennium Declaration.

OIC, ISESCO and UNICEF also jointly produced Investing in the Children of the Islamic World, a key background document for the conference. The report reviews conditions in 57 countries, assesses progress in health, education and child protection, and discusses harmful traditional practices falsely associated with Islam. Launched at the Malaysian mission to the UN, Investing in the Children of the Islamic World reflects a high degree of involvement from each of the organizations – as well as a determination on the part of the OIC to mobilize its members and bring lasting progress to the lives of their children.

The success of these developments builds on long-standing relationships that helped to instill confidence among the participants. In 1985, for example, Al-Azhar University and UNICEF published the Arabic-language guidebook Child Care in Islam. UNICEF and the Cairo-based university, one of the oldest in the world (founded in A.D. 988), presented the update – Children in Islam, Their Care, Protection and Development – in November 2005. Intended as a resource in programming, advocacy and awareness-raising, the manual encompasses the broader vision that has emerged since the publication of its predecessor and is designed to underscore how the care, protection and development of children is central to Islam.