There is one group of children who is lagging behind in the overall progress being made on MDG 2: Children living in areas affected by crisis and conflict. They make up about half of those 61 million children who still do not have access to education.
Children affected by conflict and crisis have the same right as anyone else to learn how to read and write, and to have access to knowledge that may save their lives.
Although schools are protected under international law in situations of conflict, this is often violated. We therefore welcome the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict, released on 11 June 2012, which for the first time has added armed forces and groups to the UN “list of shame” for attacking schools and hospitals.
Providing education in conflict zones and humanitarian situations is challenging, but not impossible. Many lessons have been learned over the last few decades. They need to be shared and brought into mainstream thinking.
We believe that Nepal’s experience in declaring schools as zones of peace is one such lesson that deserves attention. Despite having endured years of civil conflict, Nepal is a MDG 2 trailblazer. This is partly due to its effort to establish and maintain schools as zones of peace through negotiations between local communities, government agencies, the military and Maoist forces.
Together with the authorities in Nepal, Save the Children and UNICEF, we would like to share this experience from working with schools as zones of peace as an example of how education can be made safe, sustainable and peace promoting even in circumstances of conflict.
We also think it is time to intensify international efforts to promote education as a part of humanitarian responses. Support for educational measures during humanitarian crises contributes to the protection of children and it may prevent children being recruited as child soldiers or becoming victims of violence, including sexual violence. Schools can contribute to a sense of normalcy and peace in an otherwise insecure and unstable situation. Avoiding interruption in children’s education contributes to a faster recovery.
Norway therefore supports the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) in establishing education as a key component in emergency response, and the development of quality measures to ensure the right to education for children and young people affected by conflicts and emergencies.
By some estimates, only 2 % of today’s humanitarian funding is used for education initiatives. Norway encourages more donors, as well as implementing agencies, to increase the focus on education in their humanitarian work.
We welcome the fact that the Secretary-General has made education one of his priorities for his second term, and look forward to the launching of the Global Initiative on Education in September.
Norway is dedicated to making further progress on MDG 2 and MDG 3. I would like to finish this statement by underlining that the global education agenda requires a commitment from all governments to education for all children, regardless of where they live, their income, gender, disability, ethnicity or religion.
The current economic downturn is forcing countries to reduce public expenditure and threatens continued advancement of the education agenda. Education is, however, the path to a prosperous future for individuals as well as nations. As we start discussing the post-2015 agenda, it will be fundamentally important to interact, share lessons learned, and propose workable solutions for the realisation of Education for All.
Thank you, Mr President.