Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence

17. Memorandum submitted by the World Conference on Religions for Peace (United Kingdom Chapter)

  World Conference of Religions for Peace (Religions for Peace) was founded in 1970 and is the largest international coalition of representatives from the world's great religions dedicated to securing basic human rights, restorative justice and sustainable peace. We are active in more than 40 countries worldwide, from the United Kingdom and the United States of America, through Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Cameroon, to the world's least developed and poorest country, Sierra Leone.[155]

  Religious communities are indubitably the largest and best-organised civil institutions in the world today, claiming the allegiance of billions of believers and bridging the divides of race and class. They are, therefore, uniquely equipped to help in the care and education of orphans and other vulnerable children, including those affected by HIV/AIDS, but not exclusively, so as to avoid stigmatisation and discrimination.

  Religions for Peace is, therefore, committed to helping these communities unleash their enormous potential for common action in meeting the challenge of an estimated 15 million orphans and other vulnerable children affected by AIDS, rising to more than 25 million AIDS orphans by 2010.

  Religions for Peace is a founding partner in the Hope for African Children Initiative, which is working to become a pan-African coalition of NGOs devoted to increasing the capacity of African communities to provide care, services and assistance for children affected by HIV/AIDS and their carers.

  Religions for Peace (UK Chapter) includes members of the Buddhist, Baha'i, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic, Sikh and Zoroastrian religions and is a founding partner in the AIDS Consortium: OVC Working Group. The AIDS Consortium has a membership of some 70 NGOs, whose areas of work include AIDS expertise and programmes. The OVC Working Group is, therefore, the foremost body, in the United Kingdom, representative of NGO commitment to AIDS orphans and their carers. The OVC Working Group remit is to co-ordinate advocacy, programmes, technical support and best practice, to help ensure maximum effectiveness of funded programmes to help AIDS orphans and their carers.

  Religions for Peace (UK Chapter) is involved, by way of practical example, in a concordat with Religions for Peace (Sierra Leone Chapter) and the Inter Religious Council of Sierra Leone. Together, we are actively exploring ways for the religious communities to help rebuild their sub-Saharan country after a decade of war. One of the most significant issues is the consequent increase in the incidence of HIV/AIDS and AIDS affected orphans. In Sierra Leone, Christians and Muslims, in particular, are working together despite almost insurmountable and intractable obstacles. There, through the funding and encouragement of the UK NGO, Hope and Homes for Children, we are actively supporting an indigenous NGO, Help a Needy Child International. HANCI is owned, staffed and managed by Sierra Leoneans, who help orphans and other vulnerable children and their carers. Their strategy focuses upon de-institutionalisation; care in small families that are funded and trained to become self-supporting; education, in general, and health care, including HIV/AIDS, in particular; and training for skills that will enhance the future prospects of each child, whilst complementing the needs of the local and national community.

  Religions for Peace (UK Chapter), therefore, recommends that:

  1.  The United Kingdom not only fully and actively support Article 65 of the United Nations Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, but also use the G8 to advocate the full support of our allies.

  2.  DFID carry out a strategic review that specifically identifies and provides for the needs of orphans and other vulnerable children and their carers.

  3.  The OVC Working Group be a prime contributor to the International Development Committee's consultation process and DFID's strategy review, so as to ensure that AIDS orphans and their carers are specifically, properly and fully included in the UK government's strategy for aid to developing countries.

  4.  Religions for Peace be a prime contributor to the International Development Committee's consultation process and DFID's strategy review, so as to ensure that religious communities, in the UK and in developing countries, are an integral part of the consultation process. These communities should also play a significant role in the UK government's strategy for tackling AIDS, in general, and the issues of AIDS orphans and their carers, in particular.

  5.  NGOs that embrace de-institutionalisation; direct involvement of local communities; national government advocacy; programmes that include indigenous staff and management; and best practice collaboration, should be actively encouraged to participate in the review process and on-going programme development.

  6.  Key strategic action should include:

    (a)  Strengthening the capacity of families to protect and care for orphans and vulnerable children by prolonging the lives of parents and providing economic, psychosocial and other support;

    (b)  Mobilizing and supporting community-based responses to provide both immediate and long-term assistance to vulnerable households;

    (c)  Ensuring access for orphans and vulnerable children to essential services, including education, health care, birth registration and others;

    (d)  Ensuring that governments protect the most vulnerable children through improved policy and legislation and by channelling resources to communities;

    (e)  Raising awareness at all levels through advocacy and social mobilization to create a supportive environment for children affected by HIV/AIDS.

March 2004

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