Statement from Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser at the side-event Children in Armed Conflict

Jun 30, 2011

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 (as delivered)

Mr. Secretary General, as you know, the protection of the right to education in times of conflict is one of my highest priorities.

I believe that education is not a luxury. The right to an education is the right to a future. Education ought to be protected as a fundamental human right for every child in this world.

To interfere with that right is a grave injustice, because the loss of education due to conflict extends the costs of conflict into the next generation.

An education lost is opportunity that is lost forever -- for the children who are condemned to poverty and ignorance, and for the nations whose hopes of a better tomorrow are stolen from them.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the Security Council - in the Secretary General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, he documents an increasing trend of direct and physical damage to schools, the closure of schools as a result of threats and intimidation, and the military occupation and use of schools as recruiting grounds in armed conflicts across the globe.

We all know these facts. But knowing is different from comprehending.

Do we really understand the scale of the problem when 42 % of those children who are not attending school are living in countries suffering from armed conflict?

Do we understand that those children will be paying a high price all their lives for the crimes of others? Crimes that are exacerbated by our silence?

Because it is a crime to deny a child the opportunity of an education.

The questions before us are simple and straightforward:

How serious are we about adhering to human rights resolutions?

How committed are we about compelling others to act in accordance with these resolutions?

Finally, what actions can we take to show that we truly comprehend the gravity of the problem and address it?

Distinguished members of the Security Council, over the past years, the Council has given attention to the protection of children in times of armed conflict.

We all agree that education is a basic human right and that attacks on schools, students, and teachers are human rights issues. These attacks violate international law and have been taken up in past Council resolutions.

While the work of the Council has been critical in addressing these problems, it is now time for the Security Council to take further steps.

In 2005, the Council adopted the MRM to ensure that six of the most serious violations of children’s rights during conflict are reported.

Four years later, the Council took another important step by extending the trigger mechanism of the MRM to also include the killing and maiming, rape and sexual violence directed towards children.

We need to build on these resolutions and reinforce the MRM mechanism to insure that attacks against schools do not go unreported.

To achieve this, we must ensure that attacks against schools are also a trigger for listing parties that violate human rights.

We must add to the trigger list those who hold schools hostage to military conflicts through occupation, destruction or intimidation.

That is why we are here today: to take action to halt violations against children, and to hold perpetrators accountable.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have all read the Secretary General’s report with interest and alarm. Despite what has been accomplished to date, attacks on schools, students and teachers are still increasing.

As I am sure you will agree, these abuses should not go unpunished. We need to send a clear message to everyone, especially those in nations in conflict, that we are serious about protecting the right to an education.

In the coming days, we have the opportunity to take these concrete steps:

First, by making attacks on schools and hospitals a trigger for listing violators in the Secretary General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict, we raise the profile of this issue in the international community. And we send the critical message that the Security Council regards attacks on education as equally important as other violations against children.

Second, we must ensure that the MRM system monitors attacks on education, including attacks against students or education personnel, on a systematic and comprehensive basis.

The purpose of this monitoring is to demonstrate that the Council is adamant that these criminal acts will not go unpunished.

Third, we must insist on time-bound action plans to include commitments to end attacks on schools, including attacks against students or education personnel.

And finally, we must demand that all parties refrain from actions that impede education, including the use of schools for military purposes.

Depriving children of the right to education and of the right to be safe as they learn is to deprive them of the right to a real future. I am confident that you do comprehend this problem, and that you will act.

Members of the Security Council, you have an enormous opportunity to rescue children from attack and reconnect them to a greater future. You have the power; I urge you to use it.

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