Saturday, December 11, 2010

Iraq: Several governorates agree to establish child rights committees

Source: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

As Iraq marks International Human Rights day today, government officials, community leaders and thousands of children across Iraq's 18 governorates have concluded nearly three weeks of events celebrating the 21st anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Building on nationwide events in 2010 where the highest level authorities and children representatives called for the full protection of children's rights in Iraq, this year's events focused on a call to establish Child Rights Committees in all 18 Governorates.

"For the second year in a row primary duty bearers of children in Iraq have heeded the call to protect the fundamental rights of Iraq's 15 million children" noted Sikander Khan, UNICEF Representative in Iraq. "The commitment of several Governors to establish Child Rights Committees to review the situation of children's rights and develop plans of action on how to meet the most urgent needs of children in their respective governorates, is a very positive step to start concretely making Iraq more fit for its children".

In Provincial Council halls and school yards all over Iraq, children called for better protection of their rights through songs, plays, speeches and drawings. In front of the Head of Missan's Human Rights Committee and other Governorate Council members, a member of Missan's Children's Parliament stated "we call on the government to pass legislations that guarantee that child rights are protected according to the 54 articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which will be for the good of all children". In response, Missan's Human Rights Committee chief pledged to develop mechanisms to include children in the decision making process relating to Child Rights and to increase investments in children with the aim of accelerating the attainment of Millennium Development Goal targets in Missan.

Elsewhere, the Chairmen of the Provincial Councils of Baghdad, where nearly 4 million or 25 per cent of all of Iraq's children live, and Muthanna, where many of the most disadvantaged children in the country live, pledged to formally institute Child Rights Committees to focus their efforts in protecting their children's rights. In Salah Al-Din, also where some of the most vulnerable children are living, the Provincial Council vowed to include Child Welfare as an agenda item in its work plan for the coming year. And, in Qadissiya and Basra, both with pockets of acute child deprivation, the Provincial Councils recommended the establishment of these committees.

These governorates join Najaf and Kirkuk in a growing movement at the governorate level to institute such Committees. Speaking at the event in Kirkuk, the head of the Committee of Women and Children in Kirkuk stressed: "The fact that significant numbers of children are dying from preventable diseases such as respiratory infections and diarrhea, do not enroll in school or have dropped out of school indicates that we are not living up to the commitment we made."

UNICEF is working with the Government of Iraq as well as many other duty bearers across the country and in the international community to ensure Iraq's commitments to its children are upheld. Specifically, as new analysis is starting to show where Iraq's most disadvantaged children are living, UNICEF is advocating with all stakeholders to adopt an equity-based approach to address as a matter of priority the needs of the most disadvantaged children who have been left behind from regular development efforts; which, the recent UNICEF Narrowing the Gaps study shows will be critical to reduce disparities and accelerate overall development, including the attainment of Millennium Development Goal targets.