HIS EXCELLENCY DR. ABDELOUAHED BELKEZIZ
SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE
ORGANIZATION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE (OIC)
BEFORE THE SPECIAL SESSION OF THE
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
NEW YORK: MAY 08-10, 2002
Your Excellencies the Presidents,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
May I first of all congratulate you on your election to the Presidency of this special session of the United Nations General Assembly devoted to the cause of our children, which is of a high interest to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
I wish also to avail myself of this opportunity to express to His Excellency
Mr. Kofi Annan, the U.N. Secretary-General,our appreciation for the efforts
exerted to come out with his comprehensive report titled "We, the Children
...," taking stock, at the end of the decade, of the progress achieved
since the World Summit for Children. The report offers a clear picture
of the aims and objectives we subscribed to, the goals achieved and the
targets that have regrettably remained unmet.
Likewise, I am gratified to be addressing the General Assembly, here today, on this subject of paramount importance given its great impact on the upcoming generations in the countries of the Islamic world and on the present and future of those among our citizens who are at the threshold of their life. The ratio of children in our populations is, indeed, quite high, exceeding that of many other countries.
As Islam is an all-embracing religion that cares much for both the spiritual and worldly aspects, it calls upon us to accord particular care to children and to all that has to do with their welfare, from the fetal state in the womb, through the suckling stage, kindergarten, the under-age period and on to maturity or legal age. Islam provides to those children the greatest measure of love and care. For the benefit of children it set forth such laws as would offer them the best possible sound upbringing and healthy education in a natural environment where compassion, sympathy and benefaction reign supreme, in a family environment wherein mother, father, sisters and brothers love each other and lack no solidarity or mutual help, thus availing the child of all that is needed for a healthy, moral and educational growth. Similarly, Islam safeguarded for children their full material rights, while at the same time committing them to demonstrate particular deference and appreciation for their mothers. For his part, the father is entrusted with the responsibility of providing for the livelihood of his children whom he is duty-bound, as well, to look after. All that is clearly set in celestial scriptures and near-perfect man-made texts .
Whereas the U.N. documents on children's rights were worked out only a few years ago, the fundamental rights of children in Islam were charted out and people were called upon to respect them and abide by them some 14 centuries ago. Islam's utmost keenness on providing for children's welfare and proper upbringing emanates from its intrinsic perspective of life. Islam dignifies the humankind above any other creature, hence the human being's worthiness of such care and dignity from the moment he comes to this world, in a wellbalanced society where the fundamental rights are guaranteed.
Islam equally vests a considerable interest in the concept of the "good society," as the basic nucleus of the Muslim community where children grow and flourish. It laid rules for that society to ensure its cohesion and keep it away from the pitfalls conducive to strife and aberration. It banned promiscuity in relations between men and women so that society may not be plagued with illegitimate children or ones of unknown parents and that psychological and behavioral disorders may not afflict the children born in this way and later infest society with all their unspeakable flow of evils, corruption and social ills.
The Islamic faith advocates the taking in charge of orphans, regarded as a religious duty that must be observed. Similarly, the children's imperative respect to their parents is fundamental throughout life. Islam teaches us that paradise is to be found under the mothers' feet. Hence, children are bound to be merciful and compassionate with both parents when they grow old and reach the age where they have to be cared for. Islam placed all those values in a harmonious, coordinated and synchronized context, ensuring to the human being, throughout the journey of life, the best possible conditions of life in an environment that exudes respect, benefaction, solidarity and love.
Proceeding from such a culture as its reference, the OIC devoted a particular
attention to the protection of the Child. It effectively joined .hands
with the U.N. in the special efforts being deuloved for child welfare since
1989. More, it took action to enhance the World Declaration on Children
. issued by the U.N. in 1990. It also held numerous conferences in this
concern which were attended by representatives of various international
organizations. In the same vein, it adopted a series of resolutions and
recommendations foremost among which was the document titled "Declaration
on Child Rights and Welfare in Islam." At present, the OIC is undertaking
consultations with the competent bodies, particularly the United Nations
Children's Fund (UNICEF), to hold a ministerial conference on the children's
social welfare and prosperity.
The international community already came to the conclusion, years back, that the objective of development should mainly be the improvement of the human condition and that any development failing to place the human being in the forefront of its priorities would be a failure. Since children constitute 40% of the population of the contemporary world, we cannot ignore the fact that the improvement of the welfare of children has become a must for human societies, the world over, owing to many considerations. To name but a few:
- One: Children are the vanguard of the future, the makers of tomorrow. Therefore, preparing them adequately for that mission is like preparing ourselves properly both for our own selves and for the future generations;
- Two: Children are the weakest and most vulnerable sector of our society the most prone to diseases and plagues for which their bodies are not immunized. It follows that they also are the most affected when exceptional conditions or scourges strike, such as famine, wars and other natural catastrophes and manmade disasters;
- Three: They endure the most, from amongst the humankind, from human exploitation, like cheap child labor, besides their being the most exposed to corruption and deviations.
All that calls for special care to be devoted to them with a view to help them have their childhood journey under natural conditions, including protection, security and safety.
It augurs well that this important meeting is taking place to review what has been achieved from amongst the objectives that the previous conference on THE CHILD had adopted in New York, over a decade ago. That conference had set as one of its most important goals the lowering of the level of malnutrition among children, the fight against diseases and the decrease of the handicapping factors they get exposed to as well as the improvement of their education conditions in developing countries.
A review of the situation of the child worldwide over the past decade showed that real progress had been scored in multiple areas of interest to children foremost among which the areas of health, education and social services. But despite all that, millions of children in the developing world are still victims of diseases and malnutrition,while some hundred million among them do not get a chance for education, which indicates that the funds pledged or committed at the World. Summit for Children were never actually disbursed and that the advocated investments on social services never materialized.
It is worth noting that a large number of states, for whom I have the honor to act as a spokesman today, continue to be in that state of countries that are "on the way to development." They went through eras of the history of the humankind, over the past two centuries, in which they were a prey to colonialist forces, regarded as a sort of war booty to see their wealth and natural resources exploited and plundered by those colonial and imperialist powers and their peoples rendered ever more illiterate. Those states were left bleeding from the most severe political, economic and social problems many of which heavily affecting the destiny of their children.
As soon as these countries began to recover and solve and resolve those problems, after a long period of time, the new trend of globalization began to loom in the horizon to consecrate the dominance of the capitalist forces and bring us back into widening gap between the developing and the industrial countries. Such a new reality has, once again, placed the countries that are "on the way to development" in yet a new corner where they could find nothing but hardships with a setback in the plans they had devised for their long-awaited economic and social recovery. Consequently, the children of those ill-fated countries found their chances diminishing if not withering away - their chances to enjoy such circumstances and advantages as would have prepared them to face the future, armed with sound education and health, reduced. As a result, the peoples of those states still have a long way to go, working, endeavoring and soliciting help to consolidate their economic and educational development as well as social stability and steadiness.
In the face of that reality, the OIC, through its meetings, persevered in its quest, addressed to the rich countries, to alleviate the burden of the debts that accumulated over the shoulders of developing countries that are also in dire need of assistance to lower infant and child mortality and for the surviving ones to grow under normal circumstances. Indeed, the Organization welcomed the idea of earmarking 20% of the national budgets and a similar percentage from the official development assistance for essential social services.
The OIC, time and again, urged and is still urging for the necessary measures to be taken to prevent more armed conflicts. In its consideration of special measures to avoid conflict and the ways and means to manage, or better, resolve them, it underlined the imperativeness of devoting special care to the needs of children and women - the latter two being considered as the main victims of modern wars. It called for truces whenever and wherever fighting is taking place, as well as peaceful measures as would allow the safe passage of health services, supply goods, relief items and vaccines. It urged for the prohibition of the landmine industry, the stockpiling of such mines and "booby traps," same as their import; export and utilization and for the sweeping of the current minefields, owing to the fact that most of the victims of those land and antipersonnel mines are non else but children, women and civilians, in general.
All that brings me to address the tragic situation of the Palestinian Child at this dreadful time of the repeated, unceasing Israeli attacks in the Palestinian territories.
Such a situation redoubles our responsibilities towards those children persecuted in Palestine and in other parts of the world, to protect the rights of the child and ensure to him safe, sound and stable family conditions, for us to be able to raise such upcoming generations as would be equipped with good and useful education and learning and upright moral values whose mainstay would be mercy and compassion for the weak, respect of others, sympathy and tolerance.
The fate of the flourishing of life on earth is closely linked with the kind of upbringing we provide for our children in terms of sound environment and decent education as they constitute the major hope for humanity at large.