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UNICEF in support of:
Second World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

Regional Consultation: Rabat

The Arab-African Forum Against Sexual Exploitation of Children, a regional consultation for the Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, was held in Rabat from 24 to 26 October 2001.

More than 250 delegates representing 40 Arab and African countries agreed to accelerate action against the sexual exploitation of children by breaking the wall of silence on the issue and by increasing human and financial resources to overcome the increasing sexual exploitation of children throughout the region.

The Forum adopted a Declaration renewing their commitment to put an end to child sexual exploitation. It noted that the subject of sexual exploitation of children remains a taboo in many countries, which is a key challenge facing the region.

The Declaration underscored the need for governments to harmonize national legislation with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and ensure its enforcement. It urged countries to ratify and implement:

  • the optional protocol to the Convention related to the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
  • the optional protocol to the Convention related to the involvement of children in armed conflicts and
  • ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour.

"The root causes of this calamity are poverty, illiteracy and inadequate educational systems, gender discrimination, cultural practices prejudicing children, such as mutilations," the Declaration emphasized.

Discussions highlighted the fact that a great number of Arab and African countries are characterized by armed conflicts, war, military occupation and blockades. These conditions pave the way for the sexual exploitation of children. A critical concern raised by delegates was the close link between the sexual exploitation of children with HIV/AIDS and sexually-transmitted diseases.

Discussion over the three days recognized some advances made during the past years, including the commitment of political leadership at the highest levels, the existence of outlines of national plans of actions, the growing involvement of national and international non-governmental organizations working on the implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the progressive harmonization of national legislations with the Convention.

UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Rima Salah, said that the common position adopted will allow all the countries to break the silence on the sexual exploitation of children and to ensure that action is taken in the political, economic and social spheres. "We must commit ourselves to ensuring that children's rights to innocence and dignity are restored," she insisted.

The Declaration from the Arab-African Forum Against Sexual Exploitation of Children can be found here.