The Right to Education in Emergencies

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NEW YORK, 15 October 2015 – Protecting the right to education in emergencies offers children a lifeline during crises and provides them with the skills and knowledge they need to recover in the aftermath.

That was the main message delivered 15 October at UNICEF Headquarters in New York as part of a panel discussion on The Right to Education in Emergencies.

The interactive panel was sponsored by the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, the Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the United Nations and UNICEF. Speakers included representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNICEF and Save the Children and a Youth Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. The panel was moderated by Chernor Bah, a youth advocate for global education.

In his welcoming remarks, Ambassador Ioannis Vrailas, Chargé d’Affaires of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, acknowledged that emergencies and conflict threaten children’s right to education.

“Education in emergencies remains a top priority for the European Union,” Vrailas said. “Despite the declining trend in funding globally, the European Union has already increased its commitment to education in emergencies and we intend to further scale up.”

Gonzalo Koncke, Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the United Nations, in his welcoming remarks, spoke about his country’s commitment to education.

“Uruguay considers education to be a crucial factor for the respect of children’s rights,” he said.

The panel discussion was a side event held in conjunction with the Interactive Dialogue on the rights of the child in the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, which was held 14 and 15 October.

In the panel discussion, speakers highlighted the difficulties of providing education to all children in times of crisis. They also focused on the role education plays in providing children with the security and stability they need while allowing them to continue learning.

For Saya Abdullah, Youth Delegate from the Netherlands, the topic was personal. He told the audience about his childhood experience of leaving Iraq because of civil war and starting school again in the Netherlands.

“I had this turbulent life of being on the road before we reached the Netherlands,” he said “Education played a very important role. It taught me how to be a child again. I suddenly had this sense of normalcy again and this sense of routine.”

However, the speakers pointed out that too often children in emergencies do not get to go to school. In 2012, 36 per cent of out-of-school children in the world were in conflict-affected countries and areas, according to UNESCO’s Global Monitoring Report. In addition, an estimated 175 million children are likely to be affected by natural disasters every year. Most of them face disruption to their schooling.


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