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Children of Iraq make an ‘Appeal’ to government leaders

UNICEF Image: Iraq, Iraq Children's Appeal
© UNICEF Iraq/2008
Ali Majid, 13, (left) and Bahja Thamir, 14, (right) present the Iraq Children’s Appeal to government representatives and other leaders.

By Ban Dahyi

BAGDHAD, Iraq, 12 December 2008 – The Iraq Children’s Appeal, crafted by and for young people, was launched in Baghdad recently, as part of a special project between UNICEF and the non-governmental organization Al-Amal to help promote a culture of children’s rights in Iraq.

The appeal for the rights of childen was presented to government representatives and other leaders during the opening session of the Mid Term Review of UNICEF and the Government of Iraq’s Programme of Cooperation. 

The launch of the Appeal was followed by a special ceremony for the unveiling of the Iraq Children’s Peace Flag by Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. The flag is made of individual canvases painted by children from schools, orphanages and IDP camps throughout the country.

“We came today to read our appeal from children living in the new Iraq,” said 14-year-old Bahja Thamir. “Our message is one, but aimed at all. We wish to live, to grow up and to be able to make Iraq prosperous and happy. When making decisions about our lives and our future, please remember our voices too.”

Rights of all children

Bahja was one of two young Iraqis chosen to present the appeal, along with Ali Majid, age 13. They were introduced by Head of the European Commission Delegation to Iraq Ambassador Ilkka Uusitalo.

The two had been chosen to represent the group of young Iraqis involved in the formulation of the Appeal, and began their presentation with the question: ‘Do you want to be a child in today’s Iraq?’

UNICEF Image:  Iraq Children's Appeal, Iraq Minister for Foreign Affairs Hoshyar Zebari
© UNICEF Iraq/2008
Iraq Minister for Foreign Affairs Hoshyar Zebari at the unveiling of the Iraq Children’s Peace Flag, made up of individual canvases painted by children from schools, orphanages and IDP camps throughout the country.

The Appeal cites several rights that all children should have, such as the right to a good education, proper healthcare, safe places to play and protection from violence and conflict.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Appeal was the result of a process that began in mid-September, when 13 students were chosen to participate in a series of workshops to prepare them to craft the Appeal. During the workshops, participants were introduced to human rights, especially those of children.

As the workshop progressed, discussions on how children make their voices heard in other countries using the principles and provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) were introduced. The children watched a presentation on the UN Special Session on Children held in 2002, at which the nations of the world committed themselves to improve the lives of children and young people.

‘Their right, our responsibility’

Once the children were familiarized with the principles of the CRC and how it could be used, they were then asked to define which rights were of greatest relevance and urgency in their own lives. They used mediums such as poetry and song to express their concerns and to think of ways to create awareness and momentum in Iraq.

“It is now everyone’s business to meet the challenges offered today by the children of Iraq – and their expectations,” said UNICEF Iraq Representative Sikander Khan. “UNICEF has been working on a continual basis in Iraq since 1983, to uphold the best interests of Iraq’s children through its programmes in health, education, water and sanitation and protection. Central to our future efforts will be supporting the Government of Iraq, through the framework of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to ensure that their combined dreams and aspirations are actualised. It’s their right. And our responsibility.”




3 December 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on the children of Iraq speaking about their dreams for the future of their country.
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