The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, today closed the conference “Investing in the Future” in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates with a renewed call for urgent action to protect refugee children. The conference concluded with a re-confirmation of key principles for the protection of refugee children “The Sharjah Principles”.
“The principles that have emerged from this conference are vital in ensuring that refugee children will have a chance to grow up in safety from exploitation, to develop their potential, and ultimately to help shape the future of their countries in a positive way. Given the centrality of child protection in any humanitarian response strategy, these key principles also serve as an entry point for solutions on a broader scale,” said Guterres.
The two day conference, the first of its kind in the Middle East, was hosted by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the United Arab Emirates Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife, Her Highness SheikhaJawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, UNHCR’s first Eminent Advocate and the founder of a number of initiatives that work towards supporting refugee children in the region.
Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Dr. Nabil Al Araby, Secretary General of the League of Arab States joined the High Commissioner in delivering speeches at the opening of the conference. A video by Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Special Envoy, featuring Syrian refugees in Lebanon, was aired as well as a video message from Gordon Brown.
A number of experts from countries in the Middle East and from further afield attended and contributed to the shaping of the debates and its conclusions, together with experts from the civil society, NGOs and the United Nations. The audience included more than 500 delegates, including government officials, humanitarian aid workers and experts in refugee affairs and child protection who discussed a wide range of issues at the conference. Topics included sexual and gender-based violence; protecting children affected by armed conflict; birth registration and legal documentation of babies born in refuge; exploitation and separation; education, and empowering youth as agents of change.