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Child rights in Arab countries

Defence for Children International’s Middle East and North Africa Desk published its first report on the situation of children’s rights in 10 Arab countries.

According to the UN Secretary-General’s latest annual report on children and armed conflict, “2014 saw unprecedented challenges for the protection of tens of millions of children growing up in countries affected by conflict.” Of the 23 conflict situations covered, seven involved Arab countries. Children in Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen fell victim to such grave violations as killing and maiming, recruitment and use, sexual violence, and abduction.

Meanwhile, the influx of refugees and asylum-seekers escaping atrocities outpaced the rate of response in host countries, leaving refugee children vulnerable on multiple fronts.

Even the Arab countries that emerged from conflict are still grappling with social norms that view early child marriage, female genital mutilation, child labor, and violence toward children, among other violations of children’s rights, as acceptable.

DCI felt the urgency to grow the movement across the Middle East and North Africa to address the high protection risks that exist for children. In 2011, DCI’s International Executive Council gave the DCI-Palestine section the mandate to establish DCI sections in the Arab world.

Defence for Children International-Palestine partnered with leading local, independent civil society organizations from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen, each eventually becoming a member of the DCI movement in their own right. While DCI made significant progress toward welcoming a Sudanese partner to the fold, the relationship dissolved late in 2014 as the organization struggled to sustain its operations amid political turmoil.

All nine of the remaining sections have since sought to engage the Arab League specifically, as well as the United Nations and other international bodies, to bolster protection mechanisms for children in the Arab world.

As these sections ramp up their advocacy efforts, they wrote the summaries in this publication to offer a glimpse into the situation of children in their respective countries.

This post is also available in: FR