The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in partnership with The Big Heart and under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, hosted the first regional conference dedicated to the protection of refugee children and adolescents – "Investing in The Future: Protecting Refugee Children in the Middle East and North Africa”. The conference took place in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, on the 15th and 16th of October 2014. The conference brought together government representatives, international organisations, non-governmental organisations, refugees, academics and other experts from the region and beyond to examine the protection of refugee children and young people, exploring and highlighting concrete ways to strengthen protection systems. It also highlighted the need to strengthen existing and develop new partnerships with this aim in mind. Participants shared good practices, lessons learned and innovative approaches to addressing the protection risks and vulnerabilities of refugee children and young people.
One of the main outcomes of the conference was the Sharjah Principles; a set of principles related to the protection of refugee children:
- All refugee children and adolescents to enjoy international protection.
- All refugee children and adolescents to have their best interests taken as a primary consideration in all matters affecting their well-being and their future.
- All refugee children to be registered and documented at birth in countries of asylum.
- All refugee children and adolescents to enjoy their right to family unity and be protected from family separation.
- All refugee children and adolescents to enjoy their right to quality education in a safe environment supportive of their developmental needs.
- All refugee children and adolescents to be protected against violence, abuse, and exploitation, including child labour, and have access to national systems and services delivered in a protective way, including health and psychosocial support.