Speech/statement | Date: 09/09/2022 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By State Secretary Erling Rimestad (Oslo, 9 September)
State Secretary Erling Rimestad's keynote speech when Norad marked the third International Day to Protect Education from Attack.
- Today we mark the third International Day to Protect Education from Attack. I want to thank the organizers of this event: Norad, Save the Children Norway, Plan International and Norwegian Red Cross.
- Few things are more important for children and young people than safe access to education. This is particularly true in areas affected by conflict. In many places, children have started their school year in displacement, in bomb shelters, confined to their homes, not being able to attend classes in safety.
- Destruction of educational facilities, and denial of access to education, has immediate and long-term negative impacts on the lives of children and youth, their communities and society. Civilians and civilian infrastructure must be better protected.*
- Norway has for several years consistently invested politically and financially in:
- the provision of education, to ensure the continuation of education, including for displaced children and youth
- the protection of educational institutions from attacks and military use during conflicts and emergencies.
- We engage actively with Education Cannot Wait, established at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016.
- Norway funds several partners that provide education in conflicts and emergencies including Unicef, Save the Children and Plan International.
- Norway has a longstanding partnership with Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). We highly welcome the report Education under attack 2022. The report documents increased attacks on education and education facilities, and increased military use of schools.
- The partnership with GCPEA led to the development of the Safe School’s Declaration, launched at the first international conference in Oslo in 2015. It is now endorsed by 115 states and is recognized as a key child protection instrument.
- The Declaration is both a political commitment and a valuable practical tool to prevent military use of schools and reduce the number of attacks on education in armed conflicts.
- Endorsing The Safe Schools Declaration means a commitment to use the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use During Armed Conflict. These are very practical recommendations that can be used by all parties to conflicts as well as other stakeholders.
- We work across all regions. A core-group of states - including Argentina, Spain, Nigeria, and Norway - is in the lead and work closely in the universalization and implementation of the Declaration. Endorsing states agree to meet regularly with relevant international organizations and civil society. Argentina hosted the second Safe Schools Conferences in 2017, Spain in 2019, and Nigeria last year. We are extremely pleased that Malaysia has just confirmed to host the fifth Conference next year.
- Norway has participated at political level every time. Foreign Minister Huitfeldt gave the opening statement at last conference, when Norway took the initiative to launch a state led Safe Schools Implementation Network. It is a platform to exchange best practices and have dialogue around the implementation of the Declaration. It was launched after a series og global and regional consultations both in Africa and in Europe. This network has great potential, but is still in the shaping, and we need to see if this is the best way to make progress.
- The engagement over time laid the foundation for the UN Security Council unanimously adopting the landmark resolution 2601, initiated by Niger and Norway, in October last year. Co-sponsored by ninety-nine member states, it was the first resolution uniquely dedicated to the protection of education. It condemned attacks and threats of attack against schools, educational facilities and civilians connected with schools. It recognized the need for concrete measures to address the military use of schools. It further emphasized the need to provide the necessary protection and assistance to children, including mental health services, and safeguard the right to education.
- In our view, we have the sufficient normative- and practical tools. Implementation demands knowledge, cooperation, leadership, and political will.
- We must continue to address the gaps in the implementation of existing commitments in protecting schools from attack.
- We also need to ensure the continuation of education during conflicts - including by investing in education in situations of conflict and emergencies. And we must include a gender dimension.
- Education is an investment in a person’s life.
- We need to continue to make the Safe Schools Declaration universal.