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Forum on social protection policies for children opens in Riyadh

Prince Talal bin Abdul Aziz, president of Arab Gulf Program for Development (AGFUND), said yesterday that those children coming from poor families are among those who are neglected and unprotected.
In this context, he said the experience of AGFUND in combating poverty has reflected positively in protecting children in many countries. His speech was read out by Nasser Al-Qahtani, AGFUND’s executive director.
Al-Qahtani was speaking at the opening of the joint forum on social protection policies for children organized by The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Arab Council for Childhood and Development (ACCD) on Tuesday at UNICEF’s headquarters in Riyadh.
The event was attended by academics and representatives from civil societies, as well as policy makers of some Gulf countries. The UN’s resident coordinator in Saudi Arabia, Riyad Musa Al-Ahmad, was also present.
The move comes within the framework of UNICEF’s new direction to organize as well as participate in dialogues concerning policies that affect children in the Gulf countries in line with the latest international trend in this area. Lessons learned from local and regional expertise will be presented at this event.
He added: “According to statistical data, children under 18 years in the Arabian Gulf countries constitute one third of the population in most of these countries. Those children living in affluence need legislative measures to facilitate progress in the educational and healthcare sectors.
Speaking further, Al-Qahtani added: “We need to reconsider the traditional views about children and therefore, adopt a new vision in this respect, for the protection of children will not be realized through adoption of partial arrangements,” the official added.
Al-Qahtani observed: “We are not here to emphasize contributions made by AGFUND or the ACCD, but rather to stress that efforts of both AGFUND and ACCD are based on a strategy on how to deal with childhood problems and find final solutions to these problems.”
He said that was also the basis for a development project for early childhood which will help Arab countries draw up national plans and strategies. This project has so far been implemented in 12 Arab countries. “We have recently participated in laying down the national strategy of early childhood in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
AGFUND and ACCD have their own perspective on everything related to children. As such, their protection has been given enormous care.
“We believe that one of the most important duties of Arab communities (families, media, educational institutions and other organizations) is to work as much as possible for our children to live in peace so as to keep them away from being dragged into an environment of fear.”
During his presentation, Adel Azour, discussing the “rights-based approach to ensure the protection of Arab children” said that, based on international agreements, there are standards to reflect the rights of the child such as: substantive content, accessibility, responsiveness to the interests of children, affordability, coherence and complementarity between rights.
Speaking further, Azour, who is an expert in children rights and protection from Egypt, noted that based on ACCD studies conducted in nine Arabian countries last year, there is limited intervention in family affairs. The study recommends the need for social treatment of those subjected to child abuse.
Addressing customs and traditions, he said these have long term effects in Arabian countries and on its social and economic system.
He said there is a lack of coherence and integration between policies adopted by the individual countries.
Outlining the general framework for a comprehensive system to ensure the protection of children, he said that the protection of children cannot be achieved with partial or half-hearted measures. “We need to provide additional services to reduce the impact of the damage suffered by some children,” he said, adding that effective protection requires addressing the root cause of the problems faced by children, whether in the form of abuse or harm or any other disadvantage they go through in life.
Since its foundation, AGFUND has contributed to supporting and financing 1,268 projects in 133 developing countries. Until the present day, 952 projects have already been completed and 316 projects are under construction and implementation.
Policy makers in relevant ministries, research bodies, and civil society representatives will be invited to this meeting to discuss three papers prepared by experts from Egypt and Lebanon who were designated by the ACCD. The ACCD works in cooperation with the Arab League.
It is a permanent member in the league’s childhood committee, a member of the UN Economic and Social Council and a representative of the Middle East and North Africa in the advisory board of nongovernmental organizations, charged with the follow-up on the implementation of the recommendations of the UN Secretary-General study on violence against children.
The ACCD carried out a number of projects to promote civil society and activate the Arab and international strategy and conventions on children, such as the Arab project for street children and the Arab strategy for the development of the language of the child. The ACCD also issued reference reports on a number of Arab children’s issues and problems.

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