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Speech by Dr. Omar Abdi UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

Speech by Dr. Omar Abdi
UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

Memorandum of Understanding and expansion of cooperation agreement on Children Formerly Involved in Camel Racing,
Abu Dhabi, 23-24 April, 2007

(Introductory remarks)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Assalaam Alaykum

As we reunite here today on this momentous occasion, we should all feel proud of the effective partnership that rescued over a thousand children from the dreadful life of camel racing and gave them hope and a second chance in life.  Since the inception of this project in 2005, we have walked a common path together and progress is nothing short of remarkable.

Mr. Chairman,

The presence of senior officials of government, NGOs, and UNICEF from Bangladesh, Mauritania, Pakistan, Sudan and UAE in this meeting exemplifies the strong commitment by these partners to the commendable cause of combating child trafficking.  Most of all, this meeting today needs to start by acknowledging the leadership role assumed by the United Arab Emirates in the campaign to stop child trafficking. The integrated child protection programme we are launching today with the generous grant of UAE is the result of dedicated teamwork and a true spirit of partnership in favour of children.
Ladies and gentlemen,

In the next two days, you will be reviewing past performance and discussing future plans.  I urge you to challenge yourselves with new and ambitious targets.  Aim for nothing short of ensuring that repatriated children never fall again in the hands of international traffickers.  The only way to guarantee this is to provide children with fully protective environments as they re-connect with their communities.
This requires ensuring a sound and safe return of children to schools with quality education, adequate social services in place and communities made aware of their respective roles in promoting equal rights; designing appropriate livelihoods and income generation alternatives, together with vocational training for youngsters and their families; participation and empowerment of children and adolescents through life skills based education; enhancing the capacity of social networks to keep children from abuse, discrimination, exploitation and trafficking, as well as the development and implementation of effective laws to shield vulnerable children from the ever-present risk of re-trafficking.  Let us not also underestimate the importance of a strong advocacy and communication at the community level together with continuous capacity building of national institutions, social workers and legislators.

Excellencies, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,

The gains of our partnership are slowly but steadily showing results: The two-year project extension signed today implies a noteworthy milestone towards the achievement of our initial objectives. But it also envisages a more holistic approach to child protection and includes new elements seeking to generate further community participation in the process towards comprehensive reintegration of children. 

We laud the efforts carried out at the origin countries and in UAE to establish efficient monitoring systems.  Let’s build on the momentum generated thus far and ensure that success does not breed complacency.  To this end, we need a renewed commitment by all to enhance collaboration and coordination for continued results.  On our part, Mr. Chairman, I reiterate UNICEF’s commitment to accompany you as a dependable partner in your endeavors to address the root causes of child trafficking.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This reunion must allow us to look back at achievements with a gist of satisfaction. But new energy and ideas are required to achieve more and better results for children.

I invite you to reveal your insights and take this partnership another step forwards.

Thank you very much.




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