Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at Arria Meeting on Protecting Education in Conflict
Statement06 December 2021
Thank you very much indeed Madam Chair, Minister, and sincere thanks to Norway and Niger for hosting us today. I want to extend a warm welcome to you Minister and a particularly warm welcome to his Royal Highness the Crown Prince it’s good to see him back in New York and particularly back amongst us at the UN. I also want to reserve special word of thank you and congratulations for Paula who really inspired all of us so thank you Paula.
Chair, We gather today to build on the important step forward that we took together when we adopted, unanimously, Resolution 2601 on the protection of education in conflict.
As we know, next comes the hardest part: bringing that resolution to life beyond the page, and turning our efforts towards getting on with the job and here at the UN we call that implementation.
We should remember that protecting education is not a limited idea. It’s not only about preventing physical attacks on school buildings. It’s a much more ambitious idea. It is about vindicating the right for all to access quality education, in the many forms that education can take, right across the globe.
Shockingly today we are living through an acute crisis for education, and particularly for education in emergencies and conflict. Today as we know marks day 80, eight-zero, of Afghan girls being shut out of secondary school education. In just over one week in Gaza last May, over 140 educational facilities were damaged, many of them left in ruins. Across the Sahel, over 5,000 schools are closed or non-operational due to insecurity and attacks.
Every single day out of school is a tragedy. Every day out of school is a debt we are paying into the future. A debt that accumulates, a debt that weighs down on economies, and societies, it weighs on peace, and it certainly weighs on the wellbeing and the dreams of children. For every individual child affected, this is devastating. For the world at large, it is a grave risk we are undertaking, and a devastating blow to progress on the SDGs.
Let’s be clear: we all know that threats to education in conflict are highly gendered, as was recognised so clearly in Resolution 2601.
Boys who are not in school are significantly more vulnerable to recruitment and use by parties to conflict.
Despicably, girls’ education is deliberately targeted by violent attacks as a means to strike fear into civilian populations and to restrict the rights of women and girls.
In particular, protecting the education of adolescent girls in emergencies and conflict demands our urgent and dedicated attention. This is a priority for Ireland.
Globally, we have made excellent progress in equality of educational attainment for our children at primary school age. But fact is that girls face a cliff-edge when they reach puberty, and often find themselves excluded from school due to cost, domestic responsibilities, negative social norms, and early marriage: all risks that are significantly heightened in conflict environments. In fragile and conflict-affected countries, girls are two and a half times more likely to be out of school than boys. The disparity is even starker at secondary level. This is what we call truly tragic.
Chair, to implement Resolution 2601, we need to move to prioritise accountability for attacks on schools as a matter of urgency. The Secretary-General’s annual report and its listing mechanism is key in the effort to publicly identify the parties responsible and ensure accountability. Attacks on schools are a ‘listable’ offence. If we are to tackle pervasive impunity, we must ensure the integrity and the impartiality of listing on this ground. Furthermore, States have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for education to continue during times of conflict. Humanitarian access should be guaranteed, and the restoration of normal education services should be prioritized as soon as it’s possible and safe to do that. Very often we see education is too far down the list of priorities in post-conflict environment..
To close, chair, we believe that Education is a human right as well as an essential pathway for achieving equality, development and peace. This Council is frequently engaged in crisis management. What we should instead be doing instead of courseis preventing crises before they ignite. In our view, protecting education is the place to start.
Thank you, Chair.