Kathmandu, September 7
UNICEF South Asia launched the first South Asia Religious Leaders’ Platform for Children in Kathmandu on Tuesday.
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.
In South Asia — home to 1.7 billion people and 621 million children under 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, read a press statement issued by UNICEF today.
“Religious communities and UNICEF have a long history of shared values and goals of advancing children’s rights and enhancing their well-being. 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 organisations 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, the release said.
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 statement further said.
“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, in his concluding remarks, as he closed the two-day South Asia regional conference in Kathmandu.
A version of this article appears in print on September 08, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.