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Policy advocacy and partnerships for children's rights

Groundbreaking Islamic conference on children

© UNICEF/HQ04-0218/ Parker
There are 600 million girls and boys living in Islamic countries.

By David Koch

NEW YORK, USA, 3 November 2005 – The world is home to 2 billion children. More than a quarter of them – some 600 million girls and boys – live in Muslim countries, where children make up more than 40 per cent of the population.

From 7-9 November in Morocco’s capital, Rabat, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) and UNICEF are convening the First Ministerial Experts Meeting on the Child.

“We are extremely encouraged by the vision and leadership being shown by the OIC and ISESCO in mobilizing member states and other partners to accelerate progress for children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman.

Never before have so many ministers, experts, and key decision makers from so many member states of the OIC – with 57 members the largest global organization after the United Nations – come together to discuss and debate the Islamic world’s commitment to the rights and well-being of children.

© UNICEF video
Children make up 40 per cent of the population in Islamic countries.


The world’s Islamic population is extraordinarily diverse. Some children living in OIC member states are among the most fortunate, while others are among the poorest and most marginalized in the world, denied their fundamental right to health, education, equality and protection.

The unacceptable reality is that child mortality rates remain high across many Islamic states, millions don’t attend primary school and – in some countries – one in every six or seven women dies in childbirth. Especially in sub-Saharan Africa, HIV/AIDS is having a devastating impact, threatening progress.

These barriers that can only be overcome through collective action by the global Islamic community.

Global development targets

The main themes of the conference are fighting HIV/AIDS, promoting education for all, advancing child protection, and strengthening cooperation between Islamic nations.

Governments must work together and with Islamic financial institutions, and richer Islamic nations must help the poorer ones so that assistance can be channelled to meet the critical needs of children.

The world has the tools needed to eradicate extreme poverty, disease and lack of education. What is needed most is the political will to engage these resources. This conference is an important step in that direction.

Addressing the needs and guaranteeing the rights of the 600 million children in Islamic nations will in large part determine whether the world succeeds in reaching global development targets, such as the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, and in building a more peaceful future for all.




3 November 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Karen Cirillo reports on the First Islamic Ministerial Conference on the Child.

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