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United Nations Calls for Protecting Education from Attack

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The resolution, called for by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Education Above All and UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate, and spearheaded by the State of Qatar, aims to garner global advocacy to ensure accountability for the continued, deliberate attacks on education and the prevalent armed violence experienced by children worldwide.

Approved by consensus, the resolution, presented the State of Qatar, and co-sponsored by fifty-seven Member States, aims to raise awareness to the plight children affected by armed conflict, who are in the most desperate need of educational support. The international day provides an annual platform where the international community can review progress, new data and make commitments towards effective mechanisms to end impunity for those who attack schools.

As governments continue to grapple with the multifaceted impact of the COVID-19 crisis that has led to school closures for more than 90% of the world's student population, the Assembly sends a clear message on the importance of safeguarding schools as places of protection and safety for students and educators, as well as the need to keep protection of education at the top of the global agenda to reduce widening education inequalities that can increase the risk of conflict and insecurity during this fragile time.

After advocating for the importance of this day during the 2019 GA High-level week and Social Forum for the Human Rights Council, HH Sheikha Moza said, “Amid this global pandemic, it is vital to ensure that the diseases of armed conflict and illiteracy that were prevalent before do not spread further. That is why I am pleased that the General Assembly has recognised the significance of this urgent issue and established an International Day to Protect Education from Attack. Our challenge now, as an international community, is to translate our vision of education for all from political will into real change on the ground. Attacks on schools must halt and perpetrators of these heinous attacks must be held to account, so that the millions of children deprived of education in conflict settings can aspire to a better future. Education is their lifeline and we must protect it.”

Continued, widespread use of airstrikes and explosive weapons cause the vast majority of child casualties in armed conflict, and the most serious instances of attacks on education. During the first half of 2019, the UN has verified over 10,000 such violations against children – although actual numbers are likely much higher. Data to be released by Education Under Attack 2020 this summer will confirm that there are thousands of reported attacks on education affecting learners throughout the world. The effects of the ongoing violence against these children have caused devastating disruptions to their access to education and exacerbated their vulnerabilities further, with many experiencing trauma, health complications, stigma and fear that may hinder their ability to continue learning.

The resolution affirms that governments have the primary responsibility to provide protection and ensure inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels to all learners, especially those in vulnerable situations.  It further emphasizes the need to intensify efforts to promote safe and protective school environments in humanitarian emergencies by “taking all feasible measures to protect schools from attacks, as well as persons entitled to protection in relation to them in situations of armed conflict, and to refrain from actions that impede children’s access to education, and to facilitate access to education in armed conflict”. The agreement highlights the urgency for the concerned parties to “support diverse humanitarian funding channels and to consider increasing their contributions to education programs defined in humanitarian appeals”.

‘As the world fights to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, children and youth in conflict zones remain among the most vulnerable to its devastating impact. We must ensure our children have a safe and secure environment in which to learn the knowledge and skills they need for the future’ said UN Secretary-General and he welcomed “the proclamation of 9 September as the International Day to Protect Education From Attack as safeguarding the right to education for all contributes to the achievement of sustainable development and nurtures international community’s decades-long gains towards peace, economic prosperity and social inclusion worldwide. I especially want to express appreciation for the contribution of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, who called in September 2019 for a day dedicated to protect education from attack – and indeed, the resolution that has been adopted will set 9 September as that international day.”

“Schools must remain safe places, free of conflict and violence. Our collective future as well as the achievements of all development goals depend on it. As attacks on education at all levels during armed conflict are on the rise, the proclamation of this UN International Day to Protect Education against attack is an important step forward, and we thank Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser for the impetus and all Member States supporting the resolution” remarked UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “This is all the more timely in the context of Covid-19 that has shown the value of schools as spaces for protection and wellbeing. UNESCO is determined to act with all partners to uphold the right to education and make safe schools a reality for everyone, everywhere, at all times."

"As the world begins planning to re-open schools once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, we must ensure that schools remain safe places of learning -- even in countries in conflict," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. "Attacks on schools are a violation of humanity and basic decency. We must not allow these senseless attacks to destroy the hopes and dreams of a generation of children. We acknowledge the leadership of Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser and the State of Qatar for presenting the resolution to help ensure that schools and the children and teachers within them are protected."

September 9, 2020, will mark the first instance of the International Day to Protect Education from Attack with UNICEF and UNESCO facilitating the annual observance of the Day in close collaboration with its partners within and outside of the UN system. Working on the frontlines in conflict-affected countries, the UN entities have long assisted in strengthening Member States’ capacities to provide access to quality educational opportunities for all in times of crisis.

Photo: © EAA/Padding Dowling


"Humanity will not overcome the immense challenges we face unless we ensure that children get the quality education that equips them to play their part in the modern world." -- HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser


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