By Cristina Praz, Jacqueline Namfua and Georgina Mtenga
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, 27 June 2012 – Over 300 religious leaders, members of different spiritual traditions and faith communities, government officials, development partners, civil society organizations, and children from 64 countries reaffirmed their commitment to fight child poverty at the Fourth Forum of the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC).
The forum, held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, from 16-18 June, focused on the theme ‘Ending Poverty, Enriching Children‘, which emphasized that child poverty is the gravest global injustice and the worst, most extensive form of violence against children.
Addressing the causes of poverty
Delegates and key speakers included the United Nations Special Representative on Violence Against Children Marta Santos Pais and P.L.O. Lumumba, Former Director General of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission and Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and Tanzania. They and other delegates deliberated the major causes of poverty, examining the unequal distribution of resources, war, violence, corruption and poor governance.
President of the United Republic of Tanzania Jakaya M. Kikwete inaugurated the forum. He commended the event for bringing together religious leaders and children from around the world and embedding strong moral values in the children.
UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Elhadj As Sy also addressed the forum and reconfirmed UNICEF‘s commitment to collaborate with religious communities in the fight against poverty, emphasizing that development must have children at its heart. “This important forum deals with major causes of poverty and aims to recommit ourselves to join forces to end poverty and build a better world, a world that is fit for children,” he said.
Committing to a better future for children
Religious leaders in attendance made a commitment to promote ethics in education through an intercultural and interfaith programme curriculum that will engage children in learning and exploring the values of respect, empathy, reconciliation and responsibility.
They also committed to expand the global initiative ‘the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children’, which galvanizes religious communities to promote children’s rights.
Attendees also embraced the need to utilize interfaith advocacy and grassroots action to overcome poverty.
A youth pre-meeting was organized prior to the forum to ensure the 46 GNRC youth representatives were informed and able to participate meaningfully in the event. The participants discussed the theme of the forum, then presented their concerns in the opening ceremony and plenary sessions.
The youth delegates focused on three sub-themes: poor governance, war and violence, and the unequal distribution of resources. The children’s views informed the final declaration, which called for engaging children as full participants and actors at every level in shaping and promoting policies that address injustice against children.
The delegates also called for the next global development agenda in 2015 to take into account the moral and ethical imperatives raised by the youth participants.