The crucial role of education in emergency and post-crisis situations is the theme of a United Nations General Assembly debate at UN headquarters in New York on March 18, 2009.
The daylong debate will gather top UN experts, representatives of Member States, civil society, teachers and learners to press for concrete measures to ensure the provision and protection of education in situations of crisis and emergency.
The debate will be opened by the President of the UN General Assembly Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann and addressed by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations. Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned, UNESCO Special Envoy on basic and higher education, will give the keynote speech. UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education Nicholas Burnett will participate in one of the panels.
Panels will focus on the urgency of respecting the right to education in emergencies, how to improve provision, protect schools, students and teachers, and how to better hold all parties accountable.
Speakers include: the President of Burundi, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, the Secretary General’s Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, UNICEF’s deputy executive director, Save the Children’s country director for Afghanistan and Brendan O’Malley, author of UNESCO’s study “Education under Attack.”
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that education is a right for everyone everywhere, and this right applies even during wars or natural disasters. Yet education is often one of the first victims of emergencies. In times of conflict, schools often close, and students, teachers and school buildings come under attack. During natural disasters, education is often interrupted and schools are used as shelters for those who are forced to flee their homes.
Schools must stay open wherever possible, and where it is impossible, other means must be found to ensure that children continue to receive an education.
Approximately 75 million children worldwide are not enrolled in school and more than half of them live in countries affected by conflict.
Getting children back to school quickly during or after a crisis is a proven way to protect them: It offers safe spaces for learning and makes it possible to identify and support seriously affected individuals, particularly children and young people.
Without access to safe learning spaces, children face higher risks of abduction and recruitment into fighting groups and are more susceptible to sexual exploitation, trafficking and child labour. Education also helps restore a sense of routine and stability to affected children, their families and communities.
The thematic debate will seek to address the collective obligation to ensure that the right to education for all is fulfilled, especially in the most difficult environments.
Discussions will focus on ways to ensure that the rapid restoration of education is a key consideration in planning humanitarian responses, and that education services are among the first wave of humanitarian assistance provided in crises.
The debate will also highlight proposals and make recommendations on ways to improve awareness and enhance funding for education in emergencies.