01.07.2011 - ODG

A Call for Stepped Up Action to Protect Schools in Armed Conflict

© UN Photo - UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova with Beatrice Le Fraper Du Hellen, First Counsellor, Mission of France to the UN, and Peter Witting, Ambassador of Germany to the UN, during a panel discussion on children and armed conflict. UN Headquarters, New York, 30 June 2011

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova joined the UN Secretary-General and eminent advocates in voicing strong support for stepped-up action against attackers of schools in conflict, during a panel discussion on children and armed conflict at the United Nations on 30 June 2011.

“The time has come for the international community to take stronger action to prevent attacks on schools and ensure access to safe and secure education for children and young people in conflict situations,” said Ms Bokova.  “Our priority must be to stop appalling violations of human rights.”

The  event, hosted by the German mission to the United Nations, was organized to draw support for a Security Council resolution proposed by Germany that would add attacks on schools and hospitals as a listing criteria in the Secretary-General’s  annual report on children and armed conflict.  This resolution will be debated on 12 July.

Opening the event, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his concern over the growing attacks on schools and hospitals.  He said that beyond “naming and shaming (…), the threat of targeted measures against repeat violators – especially non-State actors - is credible and effective.” 

Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar, UNESCO Envoy for Basic and Higher Education, urged Security Council members to support the resolution. “It is time for the Security Council to take further steps,” she said. “We need to send a clear message to everyone, especially those in nations in conflict, that we are serious about protecting the right to education.”

Radhika Coomarswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, thanked UNESCO for providing a strong evidence base, noting that it has contributed to giving higher visibility to attacks on schools.

Several countries called for a General Assembly resolution on protecting schools in armed conflict. While pledging to work on this, Ms Cooomarswamy underlined that the Security Council is the only body in the United Nations holding punitive powers.

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