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Child-focused NGO seeks WEF platform to ensure ‘no child left behind’

Plan International has opened an office in Jordan to serve both refugees and hosts, CEO says

By Camille Dupire - May 17,2017 - Last updated at May 17,2017

Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen

AMMAN — Plan International will use the World Economic Forum’s platform to advance children’s rights globally, the organisation’s chief has said. 

Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of the UK-based global child rights organisation, which operates in more than 70 countries, will be attending the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, scheduled to be held between May 19 and 21 in Jordan. 

In an interview with The Jordan Times, Albrectsen, a former top UN executive, outlined the significance of this three-day forum for non-governmental organisations like Plan International.  

As a global child rights organisation, Plan International seeks to advocate for powerful partnerships between governments, civil society and the private sector to ensure children, particularly girls, are not left behind in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Asked about the relevance of the WEF’s aim to stimulate the economy through public-private cooperation in Jordan, Albrectsen highlighted the need to include private companies in the region's development process. 

"We recognise the power of partnership to advance children’s rights," the CEO explained, emphasising the importance of joint action . "We know we are stronger when we work together, harnessing the expertise and resources of our corporate partners to deliver long-term, sustainable change in the communities in which we work. Together, we develop innovative solutions and seek fresh, bold perspectives."

In 2016, Plan International decided to expand its work in the Middle East by opening its first office in Amman. 

Asked why her organisation decided to shift its focus to the Levant, Albrectsen said: "Drawing upon our 80 years of experience to advance children’s rights and equality for girls, we opened our first Middle East office to fill the gaps that have emerged in refugee response in the areas we have strong expertise in areas such as child protection, gender equality and education.” 

“In Jordan, we opened our office to build resilience among refugees and host communities. We support longer-term solutions for Syrian refugees to become self-reliant and strengthening of national systems in Jordan to meet the needs of Syrian refugees as well as Jordanians.” 

The challenges facing Jordan nowadays are at the core of the organisation’s working purposes. “We will work on child labour, child marriage and education of children under five years. Engaging children and youth will be a key element of our approach,” the CEO noted.

Regarding the Sustainable Development Goals, cited in Plan International’s programme as a primary goal to achieve, Albrectsen explained that Plan International “will support Jordan in achieving SDG 5 on gender equality. We will work with the government and all key national and international actors to address all forms of violence against girls, particularly child marriage”. 

She also highlighted the organisation’s keenness to support Jordan in strengthening policies and legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels. 

“We will also support government efforts in achieving SDG number 4 on quality education. We have already started our early childhood care and development programmes benefiting Jordanian and Syrian refugee children,” she said.  

Jordan faces tremendous challenges in light of the ongoing Syrian crisis. It has implemented a number of national measures such as the Jordan Response Plan or the Jordan Compact to tackle the challenges related to the refugee crisis. Questioned about the compatibility between the work of the numerous not-for-profit organisations and the national development plans, she said: “Our programmes are completely aligned with the Jordan Response Plan, particularly the goals on education and child protection. We are also part of the ‘No Lost Generation’, a regional initiative to support children and youth affected by the Syria and Iraq crises.”

She added: “Our programmes focus on promoting the self-reliance of Syrian families, education and healthy development of all children, whether refugees or Jordanians. Our aim is to support early childhood development for children as young as three years and their caregivers, to ensure safe access to education for refugee children, especially girls, and to link older children to training and job opportunities, especially those working in hazardous and illegal forms of labour”.

Plan International’s focus on children in general, and on girls in particular, has a specific relevance in Jordan, with adolescent girls facing unique challenges, especially among the refugee community. 

Citing the organisation’s “State of the World’s Girls” report, published annually, Albrectsen highlighted the need to focus on girls, as they continue to be the single most excluded group in the world. 

“In Jordan, for example, Syrian refugee families rely heavily on humanitarian aid and live in challenging circumstances. When family resources are limited, girls are usually the first to drop out of school,” she said. 

Currently, children and women make up 80 per cent of all Syrian refugees in Jordan. In spite of all the efforts to enrol all out of school children in formal and non-formal education, there is still a high number of children out of schools. Plan International seeks to mobilise its global expertise and knowledge gained from its worldwide programmes on girls’ rights, the CEO explained, stressing the organisation’s efforts to adapt its programmes to Jordan’s context, making sure they are culturally sensitive. 

 

The World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa will be held in Jordan in partnership with the King Abdullah II Fund for Development (KAFD). The meeting will bring together over 1,000 government, business and civil society leaders from more than 50 countries.

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