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High Level Virtual Event to Commemorate the International Day to Protect Education from Attack: Remarks by H.E. Ms. Virginia Gamba, SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict

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Remarks by H.E. Ms. Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict

HIGH LEVEL VIRTUAL EVENT TO COMMEMORATE THE INTERNATIONAL DAY TO PROTECT EDUCATION FROM ATTACK

9 SEPTEMBER 2020

Question 1: “Your Excellency, As the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, what is your number one priority in leading the CAAC’s agenda in relation to education-related grave violations against children?”

Answer by: Her Excellency, Under Secretary General of the United Nations Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict.

In 2019, my office verified hundreds of attacks on schools as well as military uses of schools in the conflict situations we monitor. Schools were looted, burnt, shelled, shot at and demolished. Some schools were occupied by armed groups or forces, denying their use to children. Boys attending school were abducted, recruited or hurt. For girls, it was even worse. They were abducted, sexually abused, forcibly married, trafficked or killed. Parents are fearful of sending their children to school and teachers leave schools for lack of safety. The consequence of these attacks on the well-being and long-term development of these children is immense.

My priority is to advocate for, and research into, better protection of schools and students from attack and ensure quality education for reintegrated children. My office will shortly open a research hub in Doha so that we, together with our United Nations and civil society partners, can develop ways to improve capacity building, accountability, monitoring, and prevention of attacks on schools and education.

I thank the State of Qatar -and Education Above All- for organizing this first Commemoration of the International Day to Protect Education from Attack. This event must become a yearly call to action to better protect education for children in situations of armed conflict. Let us unite and act now.

Question 2 “How can the international community support your efforts to find innovative solutions to intervene as early as possible, before there is a serious violation of international law, so that we can protect the right to education of children in conditions of armed conflict.”

Answer by: Her Excellency, Under Secretary General of the United Nations Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict.

By attacking schools, children are denied not only a safe space to learn but the right to an education that will ultimately allow them to achieve their aspirations. Today, as the fight against COVID-19 continues, children in war zones are even more vulnerable to violence and their hope for an education further diminishes. We need the international community, parties to armed conflict and the local communities to prioritize the protection of children and the prevention of violations against children.

I appeal to all parties to conflict to make concrete commitments to end attacks on schools and refrain from military use of these facilities and I appeal to all Member States to endorse and implement the Safe Schools Declaration to guarantee that schools be protected spaces. Lastly, I appeal to the donor community to provide human and financial resources to reinforce the presence and work of child protection experts and officials. Child Protection experts monitor, engage, assist and separate children from conflict. They also advocate for the prevention of violations and monitor and report violations when they occur. Lastly, we need to raise public awareness to make attacks on schools and education unacceptable.