*The International Day to Protect Education from Attack was established earlier this year by the UN General Assembly Resolution A/74/275, an effort driven by Her Highness Sheikha Moza on behalf of Qatar.
*Call to establish effective mechanisms to monitor violations of international law and ensure perpetrators are held to account
Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, along with key personalities from politics, sports and global advocacy, has called on the international community to unite and protect education from various attacks that threaten millions of lives and children’s future.
“We do not want this day to be simply a ceremonial day on the United Nations (UN) calendar. Protection of education must be reflected and embodied by action on the ground,” said Her Highness Sheikha Moza, Chairperson of Education Above All (EAA) and member of the UN Sustainable Development Goals’ Advocates, at a high-level virtual event on Wednesday (September 9).
The event marked the first International Day to Protect Education from Attack as Her Highness underscored the importance of protecting the right to quality education for all, especially in times of conflict and insecurity, in an effort to raise awareness and end the impunity for education-related violations of international law.
The International Day to Protect Education from Attack was established earlier this year by the UN General Assembly Resolution A/74/275, an effort driven by Her Highness Sheikha Moza on behalf of the State of Qatar. The Resolution was co-sponsored by 62 countries.
Her Highness Sheikha Moza said “verbal support from the international community is no longer enough when serious, practical solutions are missing. Decision-makers should not hide behind rhetoric without taking real steps toward change.”
“Despite these frustration, we still believe there are those within the international community who are willing to unite and take a stand,” she stressed.
“I cannot imagine that any state, country, organisation, or individual wants to bear the lasting shame of being on the wrong side of history having been silent, complicit, or lenient over the deliberate killing of children in classrooms, where they believed they were safe,” Her Highness said.
To prevent facing such accusations, Her Highness Sheikha Moza highlighted the need for decision-makers to urgently establish effective mechanisms “that will enable us to hold the perpetrators of these crimes to account.”
“So long as we persist in monitoring attacks, sooner or later, we will put an end to impunity. Protecting the lives, education, and future of those children is a responsibility that the international community cannot afford to ignore, a test that it cannot fail,” Her Highness stressed. “For in these times, our humanity is tested. Let us unite to protect education.”
Her Highness noted that recent data show that there have been more than 11,000 attacks on education over the past five years, killing or injuring over 22,000 children, teachers and academics in more than 93 countries.
“I will never forget, for it has been seared in my memory, the remains of the 40 children who were killed and the blood of the 56 who were wounded. Their school bags strewn across and their textbooks scattered, the pages laid open in condemnation as they witness an atrocity being committed. That was when an airstrike bombed a school bus in Yemen’s Saada Governorate in August 2018m,” Her Highness Sheikha Moza said.
“This was a brutal crime, the perpetrators of which evaded punishment just as others have evaded punishment for similar crimes committed in other countries,” she said , underlining the importance of ensuring that September 9 is an annual day that can lead to real change to protect education from attack.
Speaking at the event, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres underscored the vital role of education as a fundamental human right, saying that it is a social driver for fostering peace, promoting just societies and supporting sustainable development.
He noted that attacks on education can take various forms, from targeting education facilities, students, teachers and education personnel, and currently on the rise. “Between 2015 and 2019, there were some 11,000 reported armed attacks on education.
“In addition to depriving millions of vulnerable learners from accessing education, these have various serious effects including increased dropout rates, prolonged educational disruptions, child recruitment into armed groups, early pregnancy and sexual violence. These attacks simply must not continue,” Guterres stressed.
He urged all member states to honour their commitments under existing international agreements that prohibit attacks on the right to education.
Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs HE Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said there is a need to follow up on the implementation of General Assembly Resolution A/74/275, submitted by Qatar, declaring September 9 as the International day to Protect Education from Attack.
A screen grab of some of the participants
“This event is timely as it is convened during the exceptional and painful circumstances resulting from the coronavirus pandemic which affect more than 75mn children and youth who are in urgent need of educational support in 35 crisis-affected countries,” HE Sheikh Mohamed said.
“Therefore, this high-level event represents a notable occasion to call for putting an end to deliberate attacks on education and to armed violence, which afflict students, teachers, schools and other educational institutions around the world without regard to the devastating effects of those attacks on the hopes and aspirations of children and youth nor their negative impact on the sustainable development, peace and human rights,” he pointed out.
“In this context, the Qatar spares no effort to make the necessary efforts to settle disputes by peaceful means in order to avoid the destructive effects of those conflicts on various aspects of life, especially vulnerable groups like children and youth,” HE Sheikh Mohamed said.
He noted that millions of out-of-school children in more than 78 countries have benefitted from Qatar’s initiatives through EAA and its partners supported by the Qatar Development Fund, in addition to other initiatives and programmes.
“We are proud and appreciative of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser who was the driving force behind this initiative among her other humanitarian development initiatives of great substantial impact in various regions of the world,” HE Sheikh Mohamed said.
Belgium’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defence Philippe Goffin, General Assembly 74th Session president Prof. Tijjani Mohamed Bande, International Committee of the Red Cross president Peter Maurer, Unicef chief Henrietta Fore, Unesco Assistant Director-General Stefania Giannini and English former professional footballer and Unicef Global Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham, as well as students from different countries, also shared their views on the importance of protecting education at the event, which was moderated by Al Jazeera English’s Folly Bah Thibault.
The high-level virtual event was organised by Education Above All, the State of Qatar, Unicef and Unesco.
‘Amir accords priority to funding education’
HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said that the noble directives of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani affirm that financing education in emergencies has priority in the development aid provided by Qatar.
Addressing the virtual event held to mark the International Day to Protect Education from Attack, the minister expressed pleasure and pride that Qatar, in partnership with the Unesco, the Unicef and the Education Above All Foundation, hosted the high-level event, with the participation of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation and the Education Above Foundation, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, President of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly Prof. Tijjani Muhammad-Bande and other prominent personalities.
HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs appreciated the efforts exerted by Sheikha Moza ,who was the driving force behind this initiative, like the other humanitarian and development initiatives of great impact in various regions of the world.
He noted that Sheikha Moza bint Nasser played an international leadership role to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and she continues its valuable and acclaimed efforts to protect and provide quality education around the world to the most marginalised children, and to ensure their ability to go to school in a safe and secure environment.