Queen Rania participates in the "Children and the City Conference" to improve the lives of children in the MENA region

December 12, 2002

(Office of Her Majesty, Press Department - Amman) Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah participated in the opening ceremony of the international "Children and the City Conference" held by The Arab Urban Development Institute (AUDI), the Municipality of Greater Amman, and the World Bank with the aim of improving the well-being of children in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The conference complements efforts of international organizations working on issues related to children especially following the United Nations Special Session on Children held in May 2002.

As member of the Global Leadership Initiative, Queen Rania had stressed the importance of global commitment towards improving the lives of children.

The conference, which supports the Arab League's declaration of the year 2002 as the 'Year of the Child in the Arab World', aims at sharing knowledge and facilitating networking among mayors in the MENA region, national and local authorities, civil society organizations, and development agencies, on issues faced by children in urban areas and effective ways for tackling them.

In his opening remarks, Jean-Louis Sarbib, the World Bank Vice President for the MENA Region, said that over half of the 300 million people living in the MENA region are children and youth under the age of 18 years, the majority of whom now live in urban areas.

He added that just two decades ago, only 30 percent of the MENA population lived in cities. Within two decades an estimated 70 percent of the region's population will be urban.

Although young population and rapid urbanization could combine to make for a positive outcome in terms of productivity, growth and social development, Mr. Sarbib said, "they could also lead to devastating results and to lost generations of children, never fully integrated in society, never full contributors."

The three-day conference, attended by mayors and governors from the MENA region, deputy mayors and representatives of municipalities as well as representatives of national childhood and family councils will set the stage for mayors and relevant officials to address urban children's issues based on the children's real needs.

"With the increase of urbanization in the Arab region and the trend toward administrative decentralization and strengthening of local governance, we recognize the greater responsibilities Arab cities and municipalities assume in meeting the needs and aspirations of children and youth in cities," AUDI President, Abdullah Al-Ali Al-Nuaim told the conference.

Mr. Al-Nuaim said that Arab cities do not give priority to children's issues because they are considered to be the responsibility of government ministries.

Therefore, he stressed that the conference should act as a turning point in the region towards giving more attention to children and youth issues in cities. Mayor of Amman, Nidal Al Hadid said the conference will issue the Amman Declaration for Childhood which will be signed by all mayors participating in the conference.

He added that the declaration will set the stage for all countries to ensure continuous follow up on principles and ideas discussed during the conference sessions.

The second day of the conference will include sessions focusing on the Status of Disadvantaged Children in the Region, Early Childhood Development to Human Development – Enabling Communities, Improving Urban Environment and City Planning, as well as Approaches in Good City Management.

As part of the conference, a videoconference was held between mayors and youth in Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, Morocco, Lebanon, Yemen, and Egypt. Facilitated by Jordanian youth, the session focused on high priority issues identified by children in the region.