Speech/statement | Date: 28/03/2017
By Former State Secretary Laila Bokhari (Buenos Aires, 28 August 2017)
State secretary Laila Bokhari's opening statement at a conference on protecting school children in war and conflict.
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Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
First, I would like to thank the Government of Argentina for hosting this important conference. Argentina has been actively engaged in the safe schools initiative since the beginning, together with several other governments and civil society actors who have worked hard to bring us where we are today.
60 states have already endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, and we hope to see more endorsements during and after the conference.
In the humanitarian crises in Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, north-eastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, civilians are hit the hardest, and among them, children are the most vulnerable.
Not only do children and young people become random victims in today's armed conflicts; they are often deliberately targeted where they should be safer than anywhere else – in school.
According to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, since 2013 there have been attacks on schools in at least 21 countries experiencing armed conflict and insecurity. These attacks have been perpetrated by both state security forces and non-state armed groups. In the same period, military use of educational institutions has been documented in 24 countries affected by armed conflict or insecurity.
These figures bear witness to the devastating impact caused by armed conflict on individuals and societies.
Without access to quality learning, children are not only deprived of an education; in fact, they are being robbed of their future. This affects all of us. If children grow up without a proper education, they will not be able to play their part in building well-functioning, democratic, inclusive and thriving societies.
The protection of education from attack is a humanitarian and a development issue. Moreover, it is a social and a political issue to which we must respond.
This is why Norway, in cooperation with other states, international organisations and civil society, started the process that led to the adoption of the Safe Schools Declaration.
The Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict provide practical advice to help armed forces to reduce the impact of their operations on schools and universities, on the education of individuals, and on the wider society.
The Declaration provides a political framework to support those guidelines, as well as an outline for practical action.
The Declarationalso calls for states to meet in order to review the implementation of commitments. This dialogue between states, international organisations and civil society is essential for the partnership that can make a real difference to the lives of children and youth living in countries affected by conflict.I am pleased to see how many countries and organisations are represented here today. And I am confident that during the course of this conference, we will hear of many instances in which the Safe Schools Declaration has created real change on the ground.
Over the next two days we will learn more about the impact of military use of, and attacks on, schools and universities, as well as how to use the Safe Schools Declaration and the Guidelines to create positive change.
The work to ensure safe schools for all requires long-term commitment by the international community. Norway will continue to give high priority to education and the safe schools initiative, and we invite all interested states to join our efforts.
I would like to thank you all for coming. I am looking forward to continued fruitful cooperation as we work to provide safe schools for all.