By: Pi James
NEW YORK, 27 September 2012 – At a high-level meeting at UNICEF’s New York headquarters on delivering education in humanitarian environments and conflict-affected states, global leaders demanded urgent action to deliver quality education for children who live in countries scarred by war, conflict and other humanitarian emergencies.
Recently appointed United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown opened the meeting. “There is no greater challenge, there’s no bigger issue and there’s no more noble cause than getting children in conflict areas into school for the first time,” he said.
Mr. Brown recalled a recent visit to South Sudan: “When I talked to [families] about what they wanted most for their children, it was not shelter, although they needed it; not security, although they required it; not food, although they desperately wanted it; it was education for their children.”
We do not have the right to ignore it
Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar, Millennium Development Goals Advocate for Education, stressed that, although some progress has been made, “Attacks on education, killings of teachers, destruction of schools or drafting of students as child soldiers are on the increase…We do not have the right to ignore it.”
Both Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta spoke of the Syrian Arab Republic, where, according to the Ministry of Education, more than 2,000 schools have been damaged, another 800 are sheltering displaced families and almost 90 education staff have been killed.
Ms. Gupta said, “Education should not be interrupted…Building resilience through formal and alternative education opportunities is necessary to keep children and youth safe, protect them from harm and provide them with stability and hope for the future.”
Putting education first
Chair of the Global Partnership for Education Carol Bellamy highlighted the underfinancing of education in emergencies; education generally accounts for less than 2 per cent of humanitarian aid. “More than simply dialogue, we need to ensure there’s funding available so children get the services that they need,” she said.
“If we can make an impact on this, then we will be genuinely changing the world,” said Mr. Brown.
Global leaders from governments, international organizations and civil society endorsed an urgent Call to Action to ensure the world’s most vulnerable children and youth receive a good quality education by protecting schools from attacks, significantly increasing humanitarian aid for education and planning and budgeting for emergencies before they occur.
The full list of participating organizations includes the governments of Australia, Côte d’Ivoire, Denmark, Liberia, Niger, Norway, Qatar, Rwanda and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as Comic Relief, Education International, the Global Campaign for Education, the Global Partnership for Education, the Interagency Network for Education in Emergencies, Pearson International, Plan International, Save the Children, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNICEF, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the World Bank.
The event, chaired by Norwegian Minister for International Development Heikki Holmås, was convened in support of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Education First initiative, which was launched at the margins of the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday 26 September.
The full Call to Action is available at: www.unicef.org/media/media_65935.html.