UNICEF launches South Asia Re­li­gious Lead­ers' Plat­form to Pro­mote Chil­dren's Rights

Bhutan Times - - Home - Staff Re­porter

UNICEF South Asia launched the first South Asia Re­li­gious Lead­ers’ Plat­form for Chil­dren in Kath­mandu on 5th September 2017. The launch brought to­gether more than 30 in­flu­en­tial lead­ers and dis­tin­guished rep­re­sen­ta­tives from var­i­ous re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties across South Asia to un­der­line the crit­i­cal role they can play in pro­mot­ing the ful­fil­ment of child rights and also to har­ness re­gional sol­i­dar­ity to­wards a brighter fu­ture for all chil­dren in the re­gion.

South Asia is a home to 1.7 bil­lion peo­ple and 621 mil­lion chil­dren un­der the age of 18 de­spite eco­nomic growth and con­se­quent im­prove­ments, mas­sive dis­par­i­ties still ex­ist prevent­ing chil­dren from liv­ing in dig­nity, reach­ing their full po­ten­tial and mak­ing choices about their fu­tures. With re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties in South Asia hav­ing ex­ten­sive net­works and moral in­flu­ence through­out the re­gion, their po­ten­tial to tackle some of these chal­lenges and achieve real re­sults for chil­dren is highly ad­van­ta­geous.

“Re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties and UNICEF have a long his­tory of shared val­ues and goals of ad­vanc­ing chil­dren’s rights and en­hanc­ing their well­be­ing. They con­tinue to be our indis­pens­able part­ner es­pe­cially in our fo­cus on reach­ing the poor­est, most vul­ner­a­ble and hard­est to reach chil­dren and fam­i­lies. If we can fully tap the enor­mous po­ten­tial of our part­ner­ships by build­ing on each other’s strengths, we can achieve tremen­dous re­sults for chil­dren,” said Jean Gough, Re­gional Di­rec­tor of UNICEF South Asia, dur­ing her open­ing speech.

This re­gional meet­ing is a mile­stone in bring­ing to­gether re­li­gious lead­ers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of var­i­ous faith-based or­ga­ni­za­tions across South Asia. It was also a unique op­por­tu­nity to en­cour­age open di­a­logue, even about com­plex and sen­si­tive issues like child mar­riage and open defe­ca­tion. At present, there is no such space to place chil­dren at the core of the re­gional re­li­gious agenda. There­fore, UNICEF’s ob­jec­tive be­hind the launch of this plat­form is to cre­ate a vi­brant space for re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties to ex­change knowl­edge and best prac­tices; en­gage in di­a­logue and dis­cus­sions; and, en­cour­age joint harmony, com­mit­ment and con­crete ac­tions for chil­dren in the re­gion. The two-day meet­ing ended with the re­li­gious lead­ers’ dec­la­ra­tion of set­ting aside dif­fer­ences in back­grounds, cul­ture and tra­di­tions and stead­fastly car­ries for­ward their re­solve to putting chil­dren’s rights and well­be­ing at the cen­tre of their re­li­gious agenda and ac­tions.

“We are ex­tremely pleased to see you all come to­gether united in your ef­forts and com­mit­ment to use your in­flu­en­tial voice and sup­port for the de­vel­op­ment of chil­dren in our re­gion. We, at UNICEF, will now proac­tively nur­ture and ex­pand this net­work of re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties. We will also en­sure that the dis­cus­sion car­ries be­yond the meet­ing room and find ways to trans­late our com­mit­ment to child rights into re­sults, for ev­ery child in South Asia,” said Philippe Cori, Deputy Re­gional Di­rec­tor of UNICEF South Asia, as he closed the two-day meet­ing.

Karma Tsh­er­ing Nam­gyel the Sec­re­tary for the Coun­cil of Re­li­gious Af­fairs who led the Bhutanese del­e­ga­tion said that chil­dren are every­body’s re­spon­si­bil­ity.

He also stressed that all re­li­gious lead­ers in South Asia are work­ing for a com­mon goal in re­al­iz­ing the rights of chil­dren will be an ideal de­sired goal, it would re­quire tak­ing a first re­al­is­tic step.

“For Bhutan, this first step is build­ing the ca­pac­ity and sen­si­tiz­ing the re­li­gious lead­ers and faith-based or­ga­ni­za­tions on issues im­pact­ing chil­dren and form an in­tra-re­li­gious group who can then be­come change agents to sup­port re­al­iza­tion of chil­dren’s rights.” He added.

Re­li­gious lead­ers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of faith-based or­ga­ni­za­tions from across South Asia meet for the first time to dis­cuss and ad­vance chil­dren’s rights and well­be­ing in the re­gion

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