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More than six million refugees, such as this child currently living in Lebanon, originate from the Middle East and North Africa. The UN Global Compacts have the potential to provide them with lasting protection.

Civil society organisations from across the Middle East and North Africa are mobilising to push for staunch human and child rights protection for children and young people on the move, and to place them at the top of the regional and international agenda.

During a consultation in Lebanon to develop recommendations for the UN Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, organisations made suggestions on how the compact could guarantee respect for child rights. Concrete ways to provide access to services for children and young people and to protect children, girls and those affected by LGBTI issues were all put on the table – along with solutions to many other problems.

“Once again organisations from the Middle East and North Africa have shown they are ready to place the rights of children on the move at the top of the agenda,” said Terre des Hommes Migration Manager for Europe Vincent Tournecuillert.

“Our challenge was to make the Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compact on Migration specific for countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and we have shown the way to do this.”

The consultation was held on 24-25 August in Beirut, and co-organised by the Cross-Regional Centre for Refugees and Migrants and Insan, the coordinator of the Destination Unknown campaign in the Middle East. Destination Unknown campaign leader Terre des Hommes also attended the event and promoted the Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts.

Civil society organisations developed a range of recommendations on what should be included in the compact. These included providing increased resources for education, health and other public services within host communities to cater for children and young people on the move, and the need for complementary strategies for children and young people.

The need for stricter legislation against exploiting children through work was also identified, and organisations recommended that safe, child friendly spaces be developed in transit countries.

The consultation highlighted the need for gender issues to be addressed in the global compact, as girls are more at risk of being forced into child labour or unwanted marriages when travelling than boys. It was recommended that the global compact also promote family reunification without placing restrictions on when, where and how this could take place.

The United Nations General Assembly agreed to create the Global Compact on Migration in September 2016. The process of creating the compact began in April 2017, and it is hoped it will be ratified in 2018.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, there are over 34 million international migrants in the Middle East and North Africa – a 150 percent increase since 1990. More refugees originate from the region than anywhere else on the planet, with six million refugees coming from the area.

You can view the Civil Society Consultation dates for every region here.

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