The Arab Child Subject to Different Cultural Influences

On 25-25 September 2005, a regional conference on the theme "The Arab Child Subject to Different Cultural Influences" was organized by the Arab Council for Childhood and Development at Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt. The concern of the conference was to investigate the theme within the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that includes the cultural rights of children, and the respect of ethnic, religious, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds. The conference - which was attended by several hundreds of experts on children's culture, researchers, governmental authorities and voluntary organisations, the press and other media, as well as by children aged 10 to 18 representing 21 Arab countries - resulted in a Final Statement and Recommendations.


Final Statement

Participants in the Conference on "The Arab Child in the Midst of Different Cultural Impacts", held in Bibliotheca Alexandrina during the period 25-27 September 2005, present their deepest gratitude to all the officials in the Arab Republic of Egypt for the great and cordial hospitality they have found during their stay. They also express their appreciation and thanks to HRH Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz, President of the Arab Council for Childhood and Development, for his generous sponsorship of this Conference, and his attendance personally, as well as the important and valuable speech he delivered at the opening ceremony. Participants would like in this regards to ensure HRH that the results of this Conference based on a vision of genuine cultural identity opened to all human civilizations, will represent an ambitious feasible project, and will concur in the renewal of awareness, and the strengthening of freedom. Furthermore, participants recognize the serious efforts deployed by the responsible of the Council in order to achieve the success of this event.

  1. Highly valuing the initiative of the Arab Council for Childhood and Development, and the efforts undertaken in the preparation of the Conference - in collaboration with Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the Regional Office of UNICEF in Amman, the League of Arab States, the Arab Gulf Program for UN Development Organizations, the Swedish Aid, the ISESCO, the UNESCO, the Swedish Center in Alexandria, and the Supreme Council of the Family in Sharjah - that contributed to put the seeds of a real and practical partnership leading to raise awareness about child's rights and his/her sustained development, and representing a model of partnership and coordination at the regional and international levels.

  2. Participants express their great appreciation for the hospitality of Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and convey their cherishment of its history and long culture.

  3. While valuing all the efforts and initiatives related to the promotion of Arab children's culture, participants are aware of the need for additional efforts to guarantee that this culture will rely on the commitment to the Child's Rights Convention, and the two optional protocols, as well as all the calls to implement all children's rights at the eve of a new society based on digital production, interactive immaterial communication and exchange of information and knowledge.

  4. Fully aware of the nature of challenges and difficulties facing Arab children, including the flow of global media added to other issues such as poverty, occupation, armed conflicts and difficult conditions, participants confirm the need to develop national comprehensive cultural plans of action aiming at achieving feasible goals, within a limited time frame, with the support of adequate budgets, accompanied by clear indicators of measurement that take in consideration the local particularities, while targeting the early mental development of children in the era of cybernetics.

  5. Stressing the fact that children are citizens with full rights, and major actors in the society, participants in the Conference confirm that diverse policies, programs, and mechanisms related with children should be in harmony with the series of general principles mentioned in the Child's Rights Convention, and specifically: the supremacy of children's interests, the non-discrimination between children, the right of the child for survival and development, the right for life and respect of her/his opinions, the right of access, exchange and dissemination of information, including the right of children to express themselves within their families, at school, and in all institutions, and taking these opinions in consideration in the design and implementation of programs and policies.

Main ideas resulting from the working sessions

  • Raise awareness about the importance for children to have a mother tongue since their early days, and provide the adequate media for all the phases of childhood.

  • Focus on activating all the means in order to reach Arab children.

  • Rationalize advertisements in all media addressed to children.

  • Confirm the right of all children to access aesthetical education whose fruits and results rely on the availability of freedom, justice, equality, and the participation of children according to their personal needs.

  • Adopt the aesthetical, innovative, and pedagogic criteria in the publications for children at the levels of aspect and content in order to attract and develop their interest, strengthen their capabilities of innovation, empower them with values, concepts, knowledge and behavior.

  • Confirm the importance to develop a diversity of programs for artistic education in the educational and media spheres regarded as a basic element of socialization.

  • Grant attention to the content of electronic and virtual games that should be compatible with the aims and goals regarding the socialization of Arab children.

  • Invite writers, novelists, families, and the media to encourage children at participating in public life.

  • Invite writers, novelists, innovators, and the media to disseminate the values of tolerance, dialogue, non-discrimination, participation, democracy, acceptance of the other, and the respect of personal property in their production addressed to children.

  • Invite the faculties of arts and mass communication to introduce the literature for children as well as artistic criticism in their curricula.

  • Tighten the relations between academic institutions, the production bodies, and the responsible of securing compulsory education in early childhood.

  • Benefit from the modern technologies in developing the capabilities and culture of children with special needs, and improve their integration in all activities and programs within the perspective of global and comprehensive integration.

  • Train children on innovation and creativity through computers

  • Provide programs of training and rehabilitation for all workers in the field of childhood.

  • Simplify the media concepts for children in early childhood and integrate them in curricula and school activities.

  • Raise family awareness through various media about the importance of reading in order to transform it into a daily habit.

  • Establish public libraries, and promote school libraries, as well as libraries in the different centers grouping children, especially in poor areas, to be managed by specialized trained human cadres.

  • Invite the ministries of culture to design national strategic plans in the field of developing children's culture.

  • Encourage Arab joint production in the domain of cultural, educational, and entertainment media, and highlight the common cultural patrimony.

  • Encourage the private sector and Arab investors to invest in the industry of entertainment by granting them credits and tax facilities.

  • Establish an electronic network for organizations and institutions working in the field of childhood to promote the exchange of information and experience, and document all works and activities regarding Arab children.

  • The executive secretariat of the Arab Council for Childhood and Development is requested to transmit all these recommendations to the World Summit of Information, and participate as a main partner in the implementation of the objectives related to children.

  • Invite the institutions and individuals participating in this Conference to develop and design the adequate mechanisms to implement the recommendations in their respective countries.

  • Call for the design of a Code of Ethics for the workers in the field of children's culture and information.

 

Recommendations

Under the sponsorship of HRH Prince Talal Bin Abdul Aziz, a Conference on "The Arab Child in the Midst of Different Cultural Impacts" was held at Bibliotheca Alexandrina on September 25-27, 2005. This Conference was convened upon an initiative of the Arab Council for Childhood and Development, the Arab Gulf Program for UN Development Organizations (AGFUND), the Swedish Center in Alexandria, the Swedish Aid Agency, the Islamic Organization for Education, Science and Culture, the League of Arab States, the UNESCO, and the Supreme Council of the Family in Sharjah.

The Conference was attended by tens of Arab experts and researchers representing different intellectual disciplines: sociology, pedagogy, linguistics, media, and arts. The sessions of the Conference witnessed the presentation of several papers followed by discussions and debates, in addition to the specific workshops of children under the supervision of a number of experts.

The recommendations of the Conference included the following streams:

At the social level

  • The importance to activate the Civil Society Institutions to enable them endorsing the responsibility of educating and cultivating children, side by side with governments.

  • Strengthening relationships within Civil Society Institutions in order to improve the efficacy of their efforts and activities in the field of Arab children - especially those living under difficult circumstances - and promote their impacting capabilities.

  • Enhance the role of the Civil Society in discovering talent and innovation among the writers for children instead of leaving this matter to the sole will of Arab ministries of culture that have a preference for writings about the ruling elites.

  • Activate Article 17 of the Child's Rights Convention related to the right of children to obtain information from various sources, develop their knowledge as well as their personality and culture to prevent them from the negative impacts with which the surrounding society is crowded.

  • Invite the concerned ministries (education, culture, and media), and Civil Society Organizations to develop clear policies regarding children's culture to serve as a base for the national and pan-Arab strategies.

  • Act towards the integration of the culture of human rights in general, and the culture of children's right in particular, within educational curricula; and raise awareness about this culture in Arab societies to promote a cultural context addressed to children, preparing them to face the challenges of life and along with the modern trends of development, strengthening their self-confidence as well as their attachment to their patrimony and civilization, and raising the values of tolerance, openness, respect of the other, human rights, freedom, and peace.

At the media level

  • Guarantee that the contents presented to children in all types of media lead to raise their awareness, strengthen their ability to discuss and their critical thinking, encourage personal opinions as well as common initiatives geared towards the enhancement of the society.

  • Activate the recommendation issued as part of the Arab League's ten year plan about the creation of a website for Arab children.

  • Refine the discourse used by media persons in audio visual media, especially that this discourse plays the role of a model for Arab children; mainly because this discourse has been often distorted lately either in terms of content or at the linguistic level.

  • Draw the attention of the media about the dangers pertaining to the dissemination of programs encouraging the practice of violence, and the aggressive behavior because of their negative impact on children particularly, and on the development and stability of societies as a whole.

  • Develop the attractive appearance of children's magazine (colored pictures and drawings, good quality of paper and printing), besides presenting interesting topics that raise the imagination and provide children with valuable and accurate concepts, information, and knowledge. In addition, each of these magazines should clearly define the age bracket it addresses in order to include the adequate material and be expressed in the right linguistic discourse. Such magazines should have clear policies, and rely on the assistance of experts in children's psychology and children's literature who contribute in designing the objectives as well as following up the implementation and achievement of these goals.

  • Enhance programs addressing children through broadcasting, TV, and satellite channels, regarding the quality in terms of possibilities, attraction, mission, diversity, and incentives. It is also important to devote efforts towards the presenters of these programs such as: awareness raising and training. Furthermore, the trends calling for the establishment of satellite channels for Arab children deserve to be encouraged and promoted.

At the linguistic level

  • Accredit Arabic (classical simplified) as the main tool of communication with Arab children at school, in curricula, and diverse types of media.

  • Develop a "dictionary of basic Arabic for children" - similar to the existing dictionaries in foreign languages - to serve as a guide for all those who write for children in the early stages of education.

  • Develop the current approaches of teaching Arabic by adopting the audio-visual methods based on the correct pronunciation and the functional utilization of language in different situations instead of relying on memorization and dictation that do not promote the desire to learn.

  • Translate useful foreign books for children into an easy classical Arabic, in light of the experience related to the translation of Swedish classical works into Arabic.

  • Priority should be given to the study of Arabic before foreign languages in the early years of education, in order to enabling Arab children mastering their own language first, and helping them dealing and interacting with their environment as well as with all types of media.

  • The dictionary by topic should include texts inspired from children's environment, capable of motivating their curiosity and interest, strengthening their relationship with the surrounding reality, and avoiding the creation of a linguistic or cognitive gap between what they learn at school and real life.

  • Encourage the study of Arabic in the countries of migration through the establishment of schools and social clubs to promote interaction between migrants, enhance their usage of Arabic, and allow for the organization of cultural activities complementing the efforts of Arab embassies and consulates abroad.

  • Enhance programs addressing children through broadcasting, TV, and satellite channels, regarding the quality in terms of possibilities, attraction, mission, diversity, and incentives. It is also important to devote efforts towards the presenters of these programs such as: awareness raising and training. Furthermore, the trends calling for the establishment of satellite channels for Arab children deserve to be encouraged and promoted.

At the level of literature for children

  • Consider children as innovators in order to preserve their spontaneous creativity. In addition, the teaching of aesthetics should be considered as a genuine right for each child, in order to develop children's talents and innovation. Such teaching should be linked to the assimilation of behavior and ethics through the participation of children at both levels of practice and elaboration.

  • Design an Arab strategy for the promotion of cultural and artistic institutions for children, the creation of theatre plays to be performed in rural and urban areas.

  • Rehabilitate Arab traditional games since most games practiced by Arab children belong to the cultural patrimony. Experts should participate in developing and updating these games, besides collecting and documenting the popular traditions in order to preserve these games from disappearance.

  • Organize festivals and conferences about the theatre for children similar to the festival of children's cinema.

  • Develop drama production addressed to children in terms of quantity and quality. This requires the participation of experts in writing for children, the provision of training for workers in the field of childhood, the establishment of a close link between the questions raised by children's environment and the proposed drama, and the improvement of interaction between the world of arts and the world of reality. In addition, efforts should encompass family drama addressed to the entire family including children.

  • Childhood councils and concerned parties should be involved in planning and orientation regarding the content of programs addressed to children in order to avoid negative implications, and secure the best possible quality, security, and compliance with the desired principles and values.

Recommendations of the children's workshop (according to children's requests regarding culture, language, and media)

  • Computerize curricula, i.e., provide audio-visual curricula in order to become more attractive for children.

  • Develop TV as to play a real cultural role.

  • Encourage centers specialized in cultivating children's talents.

  • Organize training sessions for teachers to match with modern developments.

  • Enlarge the access to internet for all.

  • Incite Arab academies of language to issue a dictionary of modern foreign terminology.

  • Request Arab teachers to use classical Arabic in order to reinforce students' knowledge.

  • Teach sciences in Arabic at the university level.

  • Equip governmental and social institutions, and habilitate them to encourage Arab children acquiring culture.

  • Document successful stories of children and disseminate them through media over the Arab World.

  • Limit the hours of video clips projection and encode them.

  • Raise the space of cultural programs for children.

  • Abolish the programs that would negatively impact children's behavior, especially those provoking violence, cruelty, and crime.

  • The majority of programs should be presented and expressed in Arabic.

  • Workers in children's programs should be credible.

  • The creation of an educational channel including all the curricula of Arab countries in order to facilitate the rapprochement of ideas, concepts, and minds.

  • Present the problems of children in the different programs and search for their solution.

  • Present a real image of Arab children to their counterparts in western countries, and develop a new methodology for the presentation of children's programs.

Specific recommendations

  • Integrate children with special needs in all cultural, communication, and artistic activities addressed to children, as a consecration of their right for participation and a refusal of the negative behavior towards this category. In addition, all skilled technical and human facilities should be provided in order to achieve the goal of comprehensive integration.

  • Establish an Arab satellite channel specialized in scientific fields besides channels for children.

  • Increase efforts to develop websites that meet the cultural and cognitive needs of Arab children living abroad.

  • Strengthen cooperation between the concerned parties (the Arab Organization for Education, Sciences, and Culture and the Arab ministries of education and culture) in order to conclude agreements with migration countries to promote the teaching of Arabic as a second language in the schools attended by Arab students.

  • Request the Arab Council for Childhood and Development to coordinate all the efforts and activities of the different parties concerned with Arab childhood.

  • Commission the Arab Council for Childhood and Development to publish the illustrated dictionary by topic under two forms: a hard copy and an electronic copy.

  • Invite the Arab Council for Childhood and Development to hold a Conference titled "Arab Children Under Situations of War" in cooperation with concerned UN agencies and Civil Society Organizations.

  • Establish an Arab institution for the production of cartoons and the creation of cartoon characters inspired from the Arab patrimony and history.

  • Promote the current efforts and activities in the field of Arab childhood in order to match with the enormous changes that occurred in the image of modern societies based today on digital production, interactive and virtual communication of information and knowledge.

Alexandria, Egypt, 25-27 September 2005

Dela