H.E. DR. ABDELOUAHED BELKEZIZ, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE ORGANIZATION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE (OIC), AT THE SEVENTH MEETING OF THE INTERGOVERNMENTAL GROUP OF EXPERTS, ENTRUSTED WITH FolLOWING UP THE CAIRO DECLARATION ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN ISLAM
JEDDAH — KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
24-26 DHUL QUIDA 1423 H, 27-29 JANUARY 2003
Bism Allah Arrahmna Arrahim
In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullah Wabarakatuh
I have great pleasure to meet this august assembly of the elite of experts and the cream of scholars, legal specialists and legislators, who have so gracefully accepted the invitation to attend and participate in the proceedings of this meeting. Let me then wish these proceedings total success and let me avail myself of this opportunity to commend the generous support and assistance extended by this hospitable country, under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd Ibn Abdulaziz and his magnanimous brothers, to joint Islamic action generally, and to the activities of the General Secretariat of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and its various subsidiary organs, most especially.
We are gathered here within the framework of the Seventh Session of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGGE) Entrusted with Following up the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam at a time when the world in general, and our Islamic world in particular, is being wrought by turbulent changes and irresistible transformations as the countries and peoples of the Islamic world are beset by multiple and multifarious dangers that divert it from mobilizing all its resources in the service of development and prosperity. This requires those who are aware of the people of the Ummah to face numerous and onerous responsibilities, not least among which is the work involved in shaping man to respond to the needs of the future, by raising generations which are steeped in care, knowledge, and desirable morals in harmony with the well-established precepts of the civilization of Islam and its tolerant spirit.
The tumultuous waves of globalization washing over the nations of the world are imposing ways of life that are utterly different from customary modes of bygone eras. This urges us to seek and consider ways to adapt to the new situation, within the confines of our tolerant and immaculate Islamic Sharia, and to give special priority to the fundamental mainstays of such a building process so as to keep abreast with the laws of life and change. The most important element in these mainstays is the human element because it is the axis around which revolve the objectives of economic and social development plans.
In our efforts, reason dictates that we should start with the first building-block of mankind, and that is the child. Children constitute a large sector of our societies, although the most vulnerable and the one with the least audible voice. The problems faced by the child are indeed serious in that children are the human group that is most harmed by diseases, famines, wars, economic and social exploitation, and different disasters, while being also the quickest to be drawn into delinquency.
Therefore, caring for our children and protecting them is not just a humanitarian issue but also a very high priority in the whole process of development.
Speaking in broad terms, childhood means the making of the future. That is why the world at large, through international organizations and bodies concerned with children, is paying attention to the child. Hence, the United Nations adopted the World Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, and the United Nations again adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, which became an internationally applicable law as of 1990, while the World Summit for the Child was convened on 30 December 1990 and adopted the World Declaration for the Survival, Protection, and Development of Children as well as a Plan of Action to implement its provisions during the last decade of the twentieth century.
I believe that most of the Member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference have ratified this Convention or signed it with the intention of subsequent ratification, which testifies to the high priority placed by our States on this subject.
There is now a universal consensus that all children of the world have the right to growth, health, peace, and dignity, as well as a guarantee of their human rights and of protection in the early stages of life from social, economic, and other scourges. What is not well-known to Muslims is that Islam already formulated these rights fourteen centuries ago and ordained them in Almighty Allah’s Holy Quran and His Prophet’s Tradition (Peace and Blessings be Upon Him) because Islam urged the exaltation of both individual and social human conduct and exhorted mankind to build a balanced society whose dignity was upheld and whose basic rights were guaranteed on the grounds that man is the noblest of creatures and that human nature, steeped in faith and guided by God’s revelation, is free from all faults.
In this day and age, where science has made such giant forward strides, the good news of the rights granted by Islam to the child from the day he is still an embryo in his mother’s womb, must be brought to the world at large. Legal and religious proponents, each within his own field of expertise, must promote the truth on these rights through the mass media, which in this age have reached incredible heights of achievement.
This highly specialized meeting being organized by the General Secretariat under the title of Human Rights in Islam lies within the interests of the Organization in seeking to protect the new generations and making sure they are raised within the bounds of Islamic values while taking account of new advances in social and educational development fields.
Undoubtedly, Islam has instilled all-embracing principles for the welfare of children whose foundations you gentlemen have been kind enough to set forth in the Covenant on the Rights of the Child in Islam, which was adopted by your previous meetings. Those principles are mostly embodied in Islam’s keen determination to bring up good families in purity and legality because it sees the family unit as the basic link of the Muslim society and its inviolable immunity against delinquency and disintegration. That is why Islam has categorically proscribed any unlawful relationship between man and woman in order to spare society the evils of being plagued by illegitimate children and to spare children themselves the traumas of anonymous parentage and missing fathers.
It would be pointless for me to dwell on the long list of rights that Islam has granted children, particularly before this august assembly of specialists. Yet, despite the wide-ranging rights enshrined in the Islamic Sharia of children, women, and human kind in general, despite the approaches, guarantees, and guidelines given us by the Sharia in putting these rights into practice, and despite the adoption of the World Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the recent patronage by the United Nations General Assembly of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, millions of children in the Islamic world are still suffering harsh conditions such as disease, malnutrition, and hunger, and are still deprived of the most basic elements of a decent human life, for reasons that are no secret to anyone.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
You are meeting today to complete the work that you have already started in your previous sessions and that is to draw up an exhaustive account of the obstacles impeding the fulfillment of all the objectives stipulated in Article II of the Draft Covenant on the Rights of the Child in Islam and to propose appropriate solutions to overcome such obstacles in consonance with the wishes of our leaders as expressed in the resolutions of their conferences. In this respect, let me refer especially to resolutions 6, 7, 8 and 9 advocating the following: “To take into consideration the Declaration adopted by the World Summit Conference for the Child and its Plan of Action, which urge the development of national programmes for children, equal treatment of boys and girls, and provision of equal opportunities for both, and to adopt, upon considering special measures to prevent, manage, and resolve conflicts, all necessary steps to prevent further armed conflicts; to provide special care for the needs of children and women, who are the primary victims of such conflicts; to work particularly to encourage the existence of periods of tranquility during conflict and of safe corridors to allow the passage of relief supplies, immunization against disease, and the supply of medical services; and to protect children from the dangers of harmful media programmes and support programmes that foster the cultural, moral, and ethical values of children”.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We hope that our meeting will be able to formulate all-embracing proposals to activate the Covenant on the Rights of the Child and plan future action to provide our children with ways and means of growth, education, and protection so as to fulfill our aspirations to promote a sound upbringing of our children while consciously meeting the requirements of the reality, taking maximum advantage of available resources, and recognizing that building the Islamic future is essentially based on an education of the Muslim child that takes into account the global international climate from the perspective of the child under these extremely volatile international circumstances.
May Allah crown all our endeavors with success in the service of the Islamic Ummah.