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Memorandum of Understanding and expansion of cooperation agreement on Children Formerly Involved in Camel Racing

ABU DHABI, 25 April 2007 – UNICEF and the Government of the United Arab Emirates, together with delegates from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mauritania, and Sudan met this week to affirm their historic commitment to ending the use of  children as camel jockeys and providing services and compensation to all children formerly involved in camel racing in the UAE.

Acknowledging that an international solution is the only effective way to protect former camel jockeys, the governments of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sudan and Mauritania commended an agreement signed by the UAE and UNICEF to establish a second and expanded phase of their program.  That Agreement, dated 23 April 2007, was signed in Abu Dhabi and extends the UAE-UNICEF Program to May 2009.  Each of the represented nations entered into a formal Joint Statement memorializing their continuing broad-based involvement and commitment to the Program.

“This is an historic moment for the protection of children and underscores the commitment of the United Arab Emirates to elevate and defend human rights,” said His Excellency the Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Interior Minister said. “Representatives of these countries are signing the Abu Dhabi Mission Statement Declaration in order to facilitate support and services to children previously involved in camel racing, a goal that we believe can only be accomplished with transparency and through public treaties.”

The Abu Dhabi conference, which was organized by UNICEF and the UAE Ministry of the Interior, was held 23 April-25 April, 2007.

The conference is a continuation of efforts begun on May 7, 2005, when the Government of the UAE and UNICEF signed a groundbreaking agreement to return children formerly employed in camel racing to their countries of origin and reintegrate them into their communities. Under that program, more than 1,077 children received services at community centers and were repatriated to their home countries.

UNICEF has hailed this program as a model for the region. Dr. Omar Abdi, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, stated "our earnest appreciation goes to the visionary leaders of UAE who made this project a long-term promise of protection and development for all affected children." Abdi reiterated his call for action by proposing to "build on the momentum generated thus far and ensure that success does not breed complacency. To achieve this, we need a renewed commitment by all to enhance collaboration and coordination for continued results."

The initiative was the first program in the Gulf region to publicly acknowledge the issues of child exploitation in camel racing, and take practical steps to protect children. The agreement complements ongoing efforts from the UAE government to exclude all underage children in camel racing and to strengthen measures to prevent the exploitation of children. 

The UAE has committed the full funding for the second phase of the program, which is intended to help not only those repatriated under phase one, but those who returned to their countries outside the program.

During the conference this week, the UAE, in conjunction with the Governments of Pakistan, Bangladesh Sudan and Mauritania, also agreed to establish, with the consultation and technical advice of UNICEF, an independent claims facility to hear and adjudicate individual claims for injury by children formerly involved in camel racing.

Dr. Fayza Asghar, chairperson child protection and welfare bureau in Pakistan declared: "we highly appreciate and thank the UAE government for enforcing all appropriate steps towards abolishing the practice of using children as camel jockeys." She added: "The cash grants for the uplift of the general wellbeing of ex-camel jockeys, including education, health, recreation and psychological services will certainly help to reintegrate these children into a normal way of life."

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 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 further information, please contact:

Wolfgang Friedl, UNICEF Amman: Tel: (+962) 79 573 2745; wfriedl@unicef.org




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