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The Catholic Church and UNICEF in Latin America strengthen cooperation bond

Bogota, 5 September 2003 - The new directors of the Latin American Episcopal Council - CELAM - and of the United Nations Children’s Fund for Latin America –UNICEF, reaffirmed the co operation bond that has existed between the organisations for the past 20 years.

The meeting took place in CELAM in Bogota in an atmosphere of warm understanding that facilitated the identification of activities to be jointly developed by the organisation in 2004 (within the framework of the present biennial co operation agreement signed by both organisations last July 2002).

Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, recently appointed President of CELAM and Mr. Nils Kastberg, new Regional Director of UNICEF for Latin America and the Caribbean, approved the Work Plan that prioritises activities to promote development of children in the region, such as the right to a name and nationality; survival and early childhood development; prevention of HIV/AIDS, and the attention to children orphaned by the disease, as well as people living with it; the demobilisation of child soldiers; mine-clearing and the rights of displaced children, refugees and migrants.

With this agenda in mind the work developed for more than 20 years by both entities, will deepen and expand, as all efforts are directed to improve the well-being of our children, our youth and their families.

During the meeting the two documents in which CELAM and UNICEF recount more than 55 good practices and accumulated experiences in diverse countries throughout the region, were appraised. One example, is the case of the Dominican Republic where in 2001, in less than six months, 14,300 children obtained their birth certificate and after eleven years, thanks to this joint work, the right to an identity became a reality for 150,000 people.

Another interesting case is the pedagogical study on the Recovery of the Historical Memory of Guatemala. With the sole purpose of extracting lessons to facilitate national reconciliation, adolescents recalled information based on the 36 years history of armed confrontation that devastated Guatemala. Within the educational category, the case of the Friendly- Schools from Colombia, which benefits more than 28,000 displaced students by the armed conflict, is also portrayed.

The strategic collaboration between the Catholic Church and UNICEF in the scope of the prevention of HIV/ADS between adolescents, has produced remarkable results in Honduras. The admirable and lasting alliance with the community for the holistic development of children from 0 to 6 years and their families, carried out by the Pastoral of the Children in Brazil and Colombia, is another positive project that encourage these two institutions to continue with their mission and which can also be found in the summaries of their work together.

Publication of these documents has become an important way to share the achievements that have been reached as a result of the co operation between UNICEF and the Catholic Church, in favour of the fulfilment of the rights of the children, adolescents and their families throughout the region.

The challenges that our societies confront to overcome the levels of social injustice, inequality, poverty and violence which deny millions of children in Latin America their rights, will continue to be the basis of the work for CELAM and UNICEF in the coming years.




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