King Mohammed VI sent a message to the participants in the 8th Africities Summit held in Marrakech under the theme "African Cities without Street Children Campaign"
Rabat – Princess Lalla Meryem, chairwoman of the National Observatory for Children Rights, red the King’s message on Saturday.
Here follows the full text of the royal message:
“Praise be to God,
May peace and blessings be upon the Prophet, His Kith and Kin
Distinguished Mayors and Representatives of local governments,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I commend the “African Cities without Street Children Campaign” and its equivalent pilot initiative in Morocco, which is “Rabat: City without Street Children.”
Of the 120 million street children in the world, more than 30 million are scraping a living on our continent. One in four street children in the world is therefore African.
This figure is not only shocking, it also runs contrary to the time-honored values of our African societies, which are based on solidarity and the pre-eminence of the family.
Just like other countries in Africa and other parts of the world, Morocco is unfortunately not immune to the problem of homeless children. Failure to recognize this challenge would be tantamount to willful blindness; moreover, it would be unreasonable to underestimate the phenomenon.
Since my accession to the throne of my glorious Ancestors, my action has been grounded in a deeply held conviction: fate should not be invoked to justify resignation.
To accept – through denial, capitulation or indifference – that children be abandoned to the street amounts to condoning, on a daily basis, an insult to our own humanity. Such an attitude is unacceptable!
So, this is not just about celebrating the launch of a campaign, or starting one without seeing it through. We need to make sure concrete substance is given to the effective, structured and sustainable commitment of cities to reduce child vulnerability within a three-year period.
Therefore my ambition, through this campaign, is to mobilize as many African cities and territories as possible so that tangible actions may be implemented and a concrete national and continental dynamic set in motion.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is national consensus in Morocco on promoting child-related issues. In addition to action by government authorities, there is also humanistic, resolute commitment on the part of civil society.
In partnership with United Cities and Local Governments of Africa, and with the support of UNICEF, the National Observatory for Children’s Rights pledges to support this large-scale initiative.
An expert follow-up committee can help institutionalize these commitments, monitor the actions undertaken in African cities and improve intervention tools for the benefit of children.
At the domestic level, the mobilization of national stakeholders has already led to far-reaching legal, institutional, economic and social reforms.
This has resulted in the adoption of the Integrated Public Policy for Child Protection in Morocco and of the 10-year framework of action, in addition to other initiatives, such as the Indimaj program, which is aimed at eradicating the phenomenon of children living or working on the streets.
Child protection units and the ‘SAMU social’ provide emergency assistance, while second chance schools and vocational training institutes offer appropriate, sustainable solutions.
Despite the commendable progress made, much remains to be done. Child protection is not merely about tackling the violation of children’s physical, moral and psychological integrity. It also implies creating the right conditions for their economic, social and cultural development.
Protecting children is not just about preserving them from fear. It also means protecting them from want and creating conditions conducive to full respect for their rights.
The challenge is as enormous as the stakes involved. Dignity, peace, poverty reduction, the eradication of hunger, the promotion of health care, a quality education for all, equality between boys and girls and access to drinking water and sanitation are important requirements that have a direct bearing on child protection.
These are objectives and priorities which are at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which serves as a real catalyst for international cooperation.
It is up to us, Africans, to build on the global partnership around that Agenda in order to make progress towards sustainable development and the achievement of public well-being, particularly that of children.
Rising to this challenge is within our reach. It requires awareness of what is at stake, a coherent, inclusive approach as well as immediate, effective mobilization of officials and elected representatives to make sure the rights of every child are respected.
The proper place for children is in school, not on the streets. This much is clear: children’s education is a top priority. Education is actually where their protection starts.
It must be at the heart of each one of our actions. Its multiplier effect is undeniable and its promotion a necessity. Education is our main challenge as well as our greatest chance.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In my speech to the 29th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, I stressed the imperative need to establish “a proactive, youth-oriented policy (which) can channel energy for the achievement of (the continent’s)development”.
There never was a greater need for such a policy. The protection of African children should be one of its pillars.
We should join efforts to combat abandonment, to which children too often fall prey in our African cities.
The daily life of a child out on his own in the street is a journey full of pitfalls – his survival a never-ending concern.
Left to grapple with misery and injustice, the child becomes an easy prey. He is often snatched away from the family home and exploited; he is subjected to ill-treatment and is exposed to drugs and juvenile migration risks.
This shows how important it is for African cities and urban communities to be at the forefront of the struggle against the phenomenon of street children.
Today, as this Africities Summit comes to a close, and given this issue on which many have simply given up, you – municipal leaders, mayors, elected officials and governors – should be mobilized and put child-related issues at the heart of decentralization policies, particularly those concerning street children.
With this commitment in mind, I would recommend a change of perspective: which is to go back to direct contacts on the ground in order to come up with concrete, practical solutions.
Issues relating to children are all too often put on the backburner. They must concern us all, be part of our common responsibility and become a priority for all of us.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The future of our cities and of our nations hinges on what we offer our children today. Those of our children who are in precarious situations are not invisible. They are here, and they – too – are part of the future.
Protecting children is everyone’s business, and welfare systems must be reinforced. I am pleased that most African sister nations have embarked on this journey, just as Morocco has done.
We can increase our national capacities dramatically by pooling efforts at the regional and continental levels. This is the real meaning of this pan-African campaign for “African Cities without Street Children”, which aims to put child-related issues at the heart of the continent’s urban development policy.
If Africa’s children are not protected, the continent will not rise successfully to the challenge of achieving its emergence. Without a more resolute protection of future generations, Africa will not capitalize on its demographic dividend. Now is the time for action. It is our duty to make sure African cities are truly worthy of their children.
The time has come to put issues relating to children at the heart of the public agenda.
Wassalamu alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.”