"Investing in the Future" conference opens in Sharjah, UAE: Every minute another child is forced to flee in the Arab World
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (UAE), October 15th, UNHCR - UN refugee Chief António Guterres today called for urgent action to protect refugee children at a Middle East and North Africa regional conference titled "Investing in the Future" in Sharjah, UAE.
"Here in the Arab world, every single minute, another child is forced to flee his or her country," Guterres told the audience of over five hundred people. He highlighted the conflict in Syria as the 'most challenging displacement crisis' and the fact that only one in three Syrian refugee children is in formal education.
The two day conference, launched today in Sharjah, UAE, is the first of its kind in the Middle East. It is being hosted by His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the United Arab Emirates Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, UNHCR's first Eminent Advocate and the founder of a number of initiatives that work towards supporting refugee children in the region.
The conference was opened by His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi who told the audience, "In our region in the last couple of years, we are faced with millions of refugee children, adolescents and women who are in tragic situations and who fled the tragedy of armed conflicts."
He was followed by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, who made a speech highlighting the impact of conflicts in the region on Jordan. She told the gathering, "For decades, the world has come to know very well it can rely on Jordan in difficult humanitarian crises. And the world has a major role in supporting all countries hosting refugees, because that is a guarantee of our region's stability. There is however, a clear deficit in our global humanitarian capacity; the needs are far greater than the support offered."
Dr. Nabil Al Araby, Secretary General of the League of Arab States warned that "protecting refugee children has become an issue that shapes the future of the entire Arab world."
Guterres called on the conference participants to collectively recommit to deeply rooted refugee protection in Islam, Islamic tradition and law.
"I hope that during our discussions we can identify specific actions to ensure refugee children and adolescents are better protected and given hope for the future," said Guterres. "Not investing in young refugees is a huge missed opportunity. We must not allow these children to become a lost generation."
The conference includes an ambitious agenda tackling prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence, protecting children affected by armed conflict, birth registration and legal documentation of babies born in refuge, addressing exploitation and separation, protecting children through participation and partnerships, protecting children through education, empowering adolescents and youth as agents of change, placing families and communities at the forefront of child protection, and discussing partnering efforts for the protection of refugee children.
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