Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children, the emirate of Sharjah will host the first Investing in the Future Conference on 15th and 16th October 2014, which will discuss ways of protecting refugee children and adolescents in the Middle East and North Africa region.
The conference has been organised in response to the increasing number of refugees in war torn countries in the region by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in collaboration with The Big Heart, and with the participation of over 300 leaders, government officials and regional and international experts involved in refugee affairs and child protection in war torn areas. It aims to put measures in place to ensure children and refugees in the Middle East and North Africa are protected from the danger of all forms of exploitation and violence. It further endeavours to provide comprehensive rights for refugee children, particularly the right to shelter, food, healthcare, psychological treatment and education.
As one of the main objectives of the conference is to provide the youth in the MENA region with a platform of engagement and awareness on Child/Youth displacement issues, a Youth Forum has been organised to run parallel to the main event. The forum will host a number of workshops and sessions, and is expected to be attended by approximately 500 university students, faculty members and academics.
Speaking on the occasion, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi said, “Hosting this first of its kind conference in Sharjah is in line with the directives of His Highness Ruler of Sharjah to protect the rights of refugees – especially children – and to put the instruments in place that help protect these vulnerable children.”
Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi emphasised, “Every child has the right to grow up in a safe and stable environment and to live a decent life. She stressed the necessity for organisations and individuals around the world to take responsibility for children and insisted that the international community must ensure that children’s rights are upheld and sustained.”
She stated, “The UAE has a strong humanitarian legacy, established by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (May Allah Rest His Soul in Peace), who founded the principles of fulfilling humanitarian deeds for disadvantaged and afflicted people in the country and the world.” Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi added, “The Investing in the Future Conference seeks to make recommendations and adopt steps to protect the rights of refugee children, and to put the necessary measures in place to protect them from exploitation and violence, giving them confidence and hope of a better future.”
On the occasion, HE António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said, “This conference comes at a crucial time. Children currently constitute more than half of the refugees in the Middle East and North Africa, and the impact of this displacement is serious as interrupted childhoods threaten to become lost futures. As such, the aim of this event is not only to determine how we can work together to better protect refugee children and adolescents today, but also how to take collective and concerted action to improve the future for these children.”
He added, “Hosting the conference in Sharjah is prudent – Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi advocates for refugees and supports UNHCR’s work in providing protection to refugee children and has generously offered to host the event. We are very grateful for the support and resources provided by Her Highness and the close cooperation with UNHCR.”
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established in December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. In more than five decades, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives.
The Big Heart Campaign was launched in June 2013 under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, UNHCR Eminent Advocate for Refugee Children, to support Syrian refugee children. The campaign has succeeded in raising $13m over the past year and contributed in meeting the needs of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees through the provision of emergency healthcare, clothing, blankets, shelter, and food. The campaign was turned from emergency relief to education, as part of the efforts that aim to bring Syrian refugee children back to school to complete their education after they fled their war-torn country.