Sultan Qaboos University, in partnership with the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN), the Ministry of Social Development, Arab SPCAN Society, UNICEF Oman and Children First Association is hosting host the 2019 ISPCAN Congress and the 6th Arab International Child Abuse and Neglect Conference. The opening ceremony of the conference was held on Sunday, 15 September 2019 at Oman Convention and Exhibition Center, Madinat Al Irfan under the Patronage of HH Sayyid Harib bin Thuwaini Al Said, Assistant Secretary General of the Council of Ministers for Conferences. The program is being held at SQU, the Public Children Library, and Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre from September 15 to 17. This conference aims to provide a platform for a global perspective on research, best practices, and innovation to promote child protection, attracting shared experiences of world-renowned academics and specialists, as well as regional national scholars and experts.
Speaking on the occasion, H.H. Sayyidah Dr. Mona Fahd Al Said, Assistant Vice Chancellor for International Cooperation at SQU and Chairman of the Conference Organizing Committee said that the protection of children from all forms of violence is a fundamental right – a right that cannot be taken lightly. “A right that encapsulates the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Such an undertaking is an integral part of the 2030 Agenda known as Sustainable Development Goals. A right that brings us here today. A right that brings hope that the children of today and the children of tomorrow would have a meaningful life that is free from fear, neglect, abuse, and exploitation”.
Sayyidah Dr. Mona added that Oman takes its obligations under the different UN Conventions related to women and children seriously- especially in regards to the implementation and monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). “With numerous components of a child protection system in place, Oman’s high-level commitment to protecting the rights of children is reflected not only in our 2014 Child Law but also due to the fact that every governorate in the Sultanate has established child protection committees. The country has effective established the national Child Protection Hotline. These imply that Oman has laid a firm foundation for the protection of all vulnerable including those with disability and orphans”, she said.
Sayyidah Dr. Mona noted that the multidisciplinary aspect of this congress, in the final analysis, would lay the groundwork for prevention and remediation child abuse and neglect. “It is only when we work hand in hand with one another in our local, regional and global communities that we can contemplate a better and safer world for tomorrow’s people. Innovation, best practices, and global perspectives are integral and necessary to promote child protection in Oman, and globally. We must act today, tomorrow and every day to ensure no child goes unseen, to ensure that no child goes unprotected. This should be our utmost responsibility”, she said.
In her address, Najat Maalla M’jid, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children presented some appalling statistics on violence against children globally. “Every five minutes a child dies as a result of violence; half of the world’s children are victims of violence each year. It is estimated that up to 1 billion children aged 2–17 years have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect in the past year. Two in every five modern slaves are children. Globally, one in five victims of human trafficking are children. 300 million children between 2 and 4 years of age are victims of physical and psychological abuse.
“We also see increasing trends of children on the move due to conflict, natural disasters and climate change. Children who are separated or unaccompanied are at particular risk of being subjected to violence, exploitation and abuse at every stage of their journey: at their point of origin, during their journey and at their destination”.
Najat Maalla M’jid further said that of increasing concern is children’s safety when they are online. “Children can be exposed to harmful information or abusive material, groomed by potential predators, and subjected to exploitation and abuse, including through the production and distribution of child abuse images or live web streaming. In some cases, including cyber-bullying and self-exposure, children’s own conduct online may harm others and represent a risk to themselves”.
In her speech, Dr Mona Alkhawari, President of the Arab Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ARAB-SPCAN) said that holding of this conference embodies the sense of responsibility and awareness about the challenges facing the protection and care of children in the Arab world. “It seeks to address the issue of the application of the principles and standards of protection of children from violence in all its manifestations, including ill-treatment, neglect and exploitation. While some countries are experiencing rapid economic growth, other countries are experiencing ongoing wars and conflicts, or suffering from poverty or displacement of families and children, which in turn leaves negative social effects that in turn create violence against children, whether at home or outside. The Arab countries have a responsibility to take positive steps towards ending and preventing violence in accordance with the recommendations of relevant international organizations and international institutions and keep pace with the latest scientific developments”, she said.
Dr. Tufail Muhammad, President of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN), spoke about the society’s efforts in preventing cruelty to children in every nation, in every form: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, street children, child fatalities, child prostitution, children of war, emotional abuse, and child labor. “We are committed to increasing public awareness of all forms of violence against children, developing activities to prevent such violence, and promoting the rights of children in all regions of the world”, he said.
As part of the Sultanate’s hosting of this international conference, the Child Protection Ambassadors Initiative was inaugurated on 14 September at the Children’s Public Library under the patronage of H.E. Dr. Hamoud bin Khalfan Al Harthy, Undersecretary for Education and Curricula at the Ministry of Education. The initiative included a number of lectures on protection ambassadors and their role, communication skills, electronic bullying, the art of diction skills, child rights and mechanisms of protection and citizenship and many other topics. The lectures were delivered by experts and specialists from the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Higher Education and Sultan Qaboos University.
Under the umbrella of this international conference, Sultan Qaboos University hosted the Youth and Digital World Forum, and the platform of the Ministry of Social Development, which included the implementation of training and awareness workshops. This event was held under the patronage of Her Highness Dr. Mona bint Fahad Al Said, Assistant Vice Chancellor for International Cooperation, SQU and Chairperson of the Organizing Committee of the conference, in the presence H.E. Dr. Yahya Bader Al-Ma’wali, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Social Development.
The Youth and Digital World Forum, which targets young people from 18 to 25 years of age from different governorates of the Sultanate, dealt with a number of societal issues that touch society in light of the information revolution and the development of information and communication technologies. The forum was aimed at raising awareness among Omani youth about the most important issues and challenges facing them in the digital world, and providing an integrated picture of the Omani youth on the nature of cybercrimes in the country.