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Press release

UNICEF calls on religious leaders to work together for peace and development

KYOTO, 26 August 2006 - UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman today called for greater cooperation among religions to protect children from the threats of poverty, disease and violence.

“Too many members of the human family do not share in the benefits of real and lasting peace,” Veneman said at the Eighth World Assembly of Religions for Peace in Kyoto, Japan.  “The conflicts that rage around the world are ever-present reminders of what divides humanity. But there is so much more that unites us, including concern for the survival and well-being of children.”

Veneman stressed that children and women are at the heart of the world’s development agenda, pointing out that peace goes hand-in-hand with development goals.

“Ours is a world in which 1 billion people live on one dollar a day or less;” she said, “a world in which 10.5 million children die each year of causes that are largely preventable; a world in which hunger, crises, and inequity undermine peace and stability.”

Veneman also addressed a Women’s Assembly in Kyoto on the critical role of women in efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

She said that while the position of girls and women generally has improved in areas such as education, life expectancy, political representation and employment opportunities, they are collectively subject to inequities that undermine progress toward development in their countries.  Veneman pointed to health, education access and violence as areas where girls and women continue to suffer because of inequality and deprivation.

“Gender inequality is part of a self-perpetuating cycle that includes poverty and disease,” she said. “Advancing the position of women will help break that cycle.

“When girls and women are treated equally to boys and men, when they are able to participate to their fullest potential at the household, workplace and political levels, the benefits are vast.”

Veneman said that women account for 70 per cent of those living in poverty worldwide, earn less than 5 per cent of the world’s income and own less than 1 per cent of the world’s property, even though they perform 66 per cent of the world’s work and produce half its food.

UNICEF works closely with religious communities because their networks and influence make them key allies in ensuring the survival and development of the most vulnerable children. They have the moral authority to raise awareness of children’s issues, engage in education and advocacy efforts, and put pressure on governments to fulfill their commitment to the Millennium Development Goals.

UNICEF and faith-based organizations

Worldwide, UNICEF and religious groups work together on a wide range of programmes for children in areas such as education, child protection and health care.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, UNICEF and the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM) have worked together to protect children and their families for over 20 years. 

In Turkey, UNICEF has collaborated for several years with Imams - respected religious leaders who officiate at the traditional Friday prayers. They have played a crucial role in a girls’ education campaign, urging parents to send their daughters to school, and were instrumental in communicating life-saving information on avian influenza in early 2006.

Through the Regional Buddhist Leadership Initiative in East Asia, UNICEF has involved a growing number of Buddhist monks, nuns and lay teachers, in the Mekong sub-region in the HIV/AIDS prevention and care.

In Ethiopia, UNICEF works with the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and the country’s religious leaders in the fight to prevent HIV/AIDS and tackle stigma. Influential leaders have pledged to educate their followers about the importance of caring for, and ending discrimination against, those living with HIV/AIDS.


For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments

For more information:
Angela Hawke, UNICEF New York: Tel +1 212 326 7269, ahawke@unicef.org
Kate Donovan, UNICEF New York: Tel: +1 212 326 7452, kdonovan@unicef.org




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