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7th Anuual Report
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The Seventh Annual Report of Arab NGOs: "Children in the Context of the Arab Civil Society"

 With the support of the Arab Gulf Program for UN Development Organizations, the seventh annual report of the Arab Network for NGOs was published under the title "Children in the Context of the Arab Civil Society".  This report represents a new addition to the series of annual reports issued by the Network and concerned with the study and analysis of Arab Civil Society Organizations faced by the challenges of human development during the third millennium.

 This seventh report discusses the role played by Arab Civil Society Organizations specialized in children's issues, and covers the fourteen following Arab countries: Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Qatar, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates.  The report was prepared by a group of Arab researchers and experts.  One of the main observations of the report focuses on the complexity of the general picture related to children in the era of globalization and reflected in the increase of poverty rates and social deprivation, the impact of communication technology on children as well as the influence of satellites and open skies, and the impact of Western consumption patterns.  The report reveals that these new factors resulted in a growing gap between sons of the rich and sons of the poor who represent the vast majority of Arab children.

 Some of the main results that were brought by this important study show the following:

 ·        The growing number of children – under the age of 18 – in the population structure of most of the Arab countries is unmet by a parallel growth in the number of organizations concerned with childhood, reflecting the various categories of children (in socio-economic, political and cultural terms).  Thus, while the percentage of children in the population structure of Arab countries ranges from 52.7% (as a maximum) to 31% (as a minimum), the percentage of NGOs addressing children's needs ranges from 33% of the overall number of organizations to 0.7%, translating thus the limited amount of concern with children in the Arab region.

·        The overall geographical distribution of Civil Society Organizations, especially organizations concerned with children's issues, is unbalanced in the Arab region in terms of urban and rural areas as well as a poor presence in the slums.  This practically means that the growth of children's needs, the complex character of the problems they face, and the low level of human development indicators is not met by an appropriate concern on behalf of Civil Society Organizations, representing thus an indicator of unjust repartition of services among children inside each country.

·        From the perspective of the type of activities, and in light of the available means to classify Civil Society Organizations into philanthropic, service providing, developmental, or human rights organizations, indicators show that the prevailing type of activity is the traditional philanthropic approach, followed by care services (mainly care of orphans), service delivery specifically concerned with health and educational programs as well as leisure centers and clubs.  Developmental and human rights activities come on bottom of the list although the latter is of vital importance exceeding that of service delivery if the aim is to positively impact the process of human development because the human rights approach is not confined to a tranquilizer role but plays the role of a catalyst for change.

·        Changes affecting Arab children within globalization, the huge technology developments, and wild economic policies invading markets and brains and guiding the modes of consumption, are increasing the gap inside each society between children of the poor and children of the rich.  This is accompanied with the satellite channels and open skies that are imposing new roles on the institutions of socialization and cultural development, including Arab Civil Society Organizations.  The report shows that there are some pilot models among NGOs seeking to deal with children's culture within the context of globalization.  However, these models are limited, in need of support and encouragement, besides the importance to establish a coordination between the social and cultural policies when they deal with some highly important issues such as: the language used by Arab children, their sense of belonging and identity, the abolition of all forms of discrimination based on race, religion, gender, etc. as well as the protection of Arab children from the cultural confusion leading sometimes to behavioral disturbances as a result of dealing with internet and the virtual space.

·        In addition, the seventh report of the Arab Network for NGOs indicates several challenges faced by Arab Civil Society Organizations concerned with children:

1.     The overwhelming philanthropic or care approach (as a tranquilizer) prevailing in the philosophy leading NGOs working in the field of Arab children.

2.     The limited amount of planning and the prevalence of services and projects provided randomly.

3.     The insufficiency of funding representing a major obstacle.  However, the availability of a comprehensive vision, programs and projects could contribute to overcome this major obstacle to a big extent.

4.     The capabilities of an important sector of Arab Civil Society Organizations are quite limited; thus, even when the good will is there, these organizations lack skilled and efficient human resources, have weak possibilities for attracting volunteers or for securing local communities and beneficiaries' contributions.

5.     Good governance is poorly understood and consequently practiced, especially in terms of collective and team work, internal democracy, transparency, rule of the law in a context of equality.

·        When it comes to networking and cooperation among Civil Society Organizations concerned with children, the report shows that the Arab area has witnessed a relative development where a number of networks have emerged especially those based on the human rights approach aiming at implementing and complying with the Child's Rights Convention, and networks grouping organizations specialized in children with special needs, or talented children, or street children, or working children.  However, the activities of some of these networks are often limited to the organization of meetings and forums.  Despite the importance of this type of activity to promote interaction, they are not sufficient to catalyze and mobilize Arab Civil Society Organizations and improve their interaction with children's issues and needs in a changing world.

 According to the findings of the seventh annual report, several recommendations were formulated in order to improve the performance and effectiveness of Civil Society Organizations concerned with children:

   1.     Developing research and studies about the various categories of children in the different Arab countries, and presenting them in a simplified way to Civil Society Organizations in order to enable them identifying the priorities and needs.

2.     Granting greater attention to strengthening the capacity building of workers in this domain.

3.     Operating a change in the vision and philosophy of Civil Society Organizations, and implementing a qualitative change that would transfer the efforts from the "tranquilizing" approach to a comprehensive human rights approach.

4.     Granting much of concern to the various categories of children, especially children of the poor who are deprived from basic needs, rural children and Bedouins.

5.     Achieving gender equilibrium.

6.     Establishing networks capable of interacting and cooperating together, achieving common goals, and contributing in capacity building.

7.     Developing a media environment that interacts with governmental and non-governmental efforts through active circles of media workers.

8.     Granting attention to the field of child culture in the global sense of the word, i.e., a culture that emphasizes loyalty, identity, Arab language, arts, creativity and innovation besides training programs aiming at improving the acceptance of others, tolerance, participation and collective work.

9.     Granting a big deal of attention to children living in the situations of armed conflicts in Iraq, Palestine, and Sudan.