“The responsibility to invest in children, discussed at the African Union in favor of the Third Pan-African Forum on Children”

The African Union Commission (AUC) is hosting the Third Pan-African Forum on Children. The two day Forum which opened on the 19th of November, 2012 under the theme: “The Responsibility to Invest in Children”, brought together continental experts and us stakeholders to assess progress in implementation of the Plan of Action for an Africa Fit for Children.

Addressing the Opening Ceremony, Commissioner for Social Affairs, Dr. Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, said the overall objective of the Forum was to review the implementation of the Call for Accelerated Action on the Plan of Action Towards Africa Fit for Children by AU Member States and other stakeholders as well as to strengthen accountability, and advocate for stronger synergies for investing in children.

Dr. Kaloko added that the Forum also aimed at promoting the mainstreaming of child rights issues into other sectors at regional and national levels, thereby contributing to the promotion and protection of the rights and well-being of children in the context of the family..

Mekdim Zerubabel, a 15 year old girl, told the gathering that was a need to address challenges faced by children in conflict situations. She said children’s rights were being trampled upon in many parts of Africa such as Eastern DRC, Northern Mali, Somalia and other parts of Africa.

Another child of 13 years told the same gathering that the majority of African children were exposed to sexual violence, prostitution, ill treatment and illicit drugs. Some children were also being drafted into armed forces while others were led into , early marriages, child labor or became street children. They were also exposed to diseases such as malaria, cholera, HIV/AIDS, polio, non-access to safe water, non-vaccination and non-essential care.

Some of the recommendations by the children:

1. Demobilization of child soldiers;

2. Punishment of those who are responsible for the rape of women and girls;

3. Rehabilitation and integration of street children to their families;

4. Setting up of a mechanism to prevent armed conflicts affecting children in the different countries;

5. Building school for African children, and providing them with quality education until they complete their studies;

6. Provision of sufficient recreational facilities for children;

7. Permitting African children to express themselves about any question or issue that concerns them, through structures as the Children’s Parliament;

8. Creation of an African Penal Court (APC);

9. Ensuring proper medical care for children and investment in the health care sector for children;

10. Keeping the environment safe and sound for the next generations;

11. Governments should be accountable for their actions to children, especially that they agreed to implement the First and Second Pan African Forum on Children recommendations. On this, governments promised to submit their Monitoring and Evaluation Reports, but out of 54 African countries only 15 submitted their Monitoring and Evaluation Reports.

12. On ratification of AU and international legal instruments, African countries were called upon to domesticate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) for the effective implementation of the child rights in their respective constitution. All African countries, except Somalia and South Sudan, have ratified the CRC. A call was made to African governments to ratify the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. However, it was acknowledged that some African countries were signatories to the MDGs, and that this was an encouraging move in the right direction to achieving the MDGs.

The particularity of this Forum is its goal to bring together children and adults to discuss issues of children in Africa. The Third Forum brings together experts from Member States of the AU in the area of welfare of the child, representatives of UN agencies, NGO networks, organizations of women and children involved in issues related to children and development partners.

Source: African Union Commission (AUC) – Press Release – 21 November 2012