The United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba, welcomes the League of Arab States’ commitment to strengthening child protection in the Arab region. Addressing the ‘Regional Conference on the Prevention of Grave Violations against Children in Armed Conflict’, held in Doha, the State of Qatar, on 28 May, the Special Representative highlighted that ‘protecting children from the impact of armed conflict is a joint moral and legal obligation and an investment in our peaceful common future’.

The State of Qatar, represented by the Ministry of Social Development and the Family, hosted the regional conference in its capacity as Chair of the 42nd meeting of the Council of Arab Ministers of Social Affairs. Collaboratively organised with the League of Arab States – Social Affairs Sector and the United Nations Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, the conference was chaired by H.E. Ms. Mariam bint Ali bin Nasser al-Misnad, Minister of Social Development and Family of Qatar. The meeting, which was opened by H.E. Ms. Haifa Abu Ghazaleh, Assistant Secretary-General for Social Affairs of the League of Arab States, and Special Representative Virginia Gamba, brought together Arab Ministers of Social Affairs, representatives from United Nations entities, including UNESCO, UNHCR, and UNICEF, and from the Education Above All Foundation. Statements were delivered by the Social Affairs Ministers of Djibouti, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Sudan, Tunisia and the State of Palestine.

The discussions shed light on the urgent need to bolster child protection and create a safe environment for children in the Arab region as a prerequisite to achieving sustainable peace and development. Participants discussed current child protection challenges in the region, including issues such as the issue of attacks on education, the heightened vulnerability of children with disabilities, and refugee and internally displaced children. Participants agreed on the importance of providing comprehensive and sustainable reintegration and assistance programmes to children across the region, of operationalizing the LAS’ ‘Comprehensive plan to end child recruitment in armed and terrorist conflicts’, and of creating a concerted regional push towards the prevention of grave violations against children. They also highlighted the positive engagement between the League of Arab States and the United Nations on child protection and encouraged further efforts in this regard. Moreover, the conference showcased successful national and regional strategies for ending and preventing grave violations against children and committed to increased sharing of good practices across the region.

The conference concluded with the issuance of a LAS declaration, reaffirming the League of Arab States’ collective commitment to championing the rights of children and expressing deep concern over escalating violations in situations of armed conflict. ‘We declare our conviction that the suffering of children affected by armed conflict is one of the most acute political and humanitarian concerns of today (…) (and) to make any effort to ensure the protection of children in areas of armed conflict and to ensure the protection of the future of all of us’, the declaration stated.

During her four-day visit to Doha, Special Representative Virginia Gamba also met with HE Ms. Lolwah bint Rashid Al-Khater, Minister of State for International Cooperation where she discussed various issues of international concern such as Afghanistan and Sudan. Further, she met with HE Mr. Khalifa bin Jassem Al-Kuwari, Director-General of Qatar Fund for Development, engaged with Education Above All Foundation and United Nations partners, and visited Dreama Orphans Care and Aman Protection and Social Rehabilitation centres.