Her Highness Sheikha Moza calls for global leadership to protect education in conflict

George and Barbara Bush Distinguished Lecture Series - September 19th 2013. Her Highness Sheikha bint Nasser received the George Bush award for excellence in Public Service at the University of New England in Biddeford, ME. UNE


In a speech given as part of The Hague Institute’s Global Justice Distinguished Seminar Series, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser will challenge international governing bodies, including the UN Security Council, to ensure all those who carry out attacks on education are held responsible for their actions. She will warn that education is being used as “an instrument of war” and unless we “break the vicious cycle of violence” the 2030 sustainable development agenda will not be delivered.

19th May 2017

In a major speech to political leaders, NGO chiefs and the diplomatic community, Her Highness Sheikha Moza will issue a stark warning to the international community and draw on her decades of advocacy on behalf of children to conclude “global justice has gone blind”. She will say long-term peace and the wider sustainable development agenda remains unachievable unless there is renewed political commitment to protect education in conflict.

The leading UN Sustainable Development Advocate and founder of the global foundation, Education Above All (EAA), will argue that education is a vital tool in peacebuilding and conflict prevention. She will say:

“Now, more than ever, we need to reassert our common goal – to protect education during war. To provide education even in conflict and insecurity. This is when it is most difficult, and yet most urgent, to build sustainable peace.”

She will also argue that peace and security will only be possible when all nations adhere to international law. She will state that the UN Security Council – the body charged with ensuring international peace – is “broken in exactly those situations where it is needed most – to hold to account those who commit grave violations of international law.” She will say it has “failed in its duty to unite, to collectively condemn… and to ensure accountability for crimes against education and children”. She will call for more responsible use of veto powers by the Permanent members, saying “with each veto, an opportunity to prevent conflict, and establish peace is lost.”

The speech is being delivered at a seminar on 19th May, which will also include contributions from International Criminal Court Prosecutor, Her Excellency Fatou Bensouda; Founder and President of the Foundation for Community Development (FDC), and Founder of the Graça Machel Trust, Graça Machel; and Founder and CEO of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative (WPDI), UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and UN SDG Advocate Forest Whitaker; Norway’s State Secretary, Laila Bokhari; and CEO of Save the Children UK, Kevin Watkins.

The event will mark the start of a renewed roadmap, bringing together leading figures from across the development sector to build a programme aimed at strengthening international law to better protect children.

One quarter of all school-aged children live in countries devastated by conflict[1] and frequently these conflicts see a pattern of targeted attacks on schools, teachers, and students. War and conflict in South Sudan makes it home to the highest proportion of out of school children, with over half of primary and lower secondary age children not accessing education.[2] Today in Syria alone, more than 4,200 schools have been damaged or destroyed.[3] And yet, just a few years ago, Syria had a stable education system and high literacy rates.

Her Highness’ address coincides with the signing of an extended partnership between Education Above All’s programme, Al Fakhoora, and the Dutch NGO, SPARK, offering higher education opportunities to young Syrian refugees, granting access to scholarships, undergraduate qualifications and vocational training to a total of 6,345 students in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Turkey. The Al Fakhoora programme takes a unique approach to Higher Education, offering university degrees alongside leadership and development and economic empowerment opportunities.

In her address, Her Highness Sheikha Moza, founder of Education Above All and UN Sustainable Development Goal Advocate will say,

“We need to prevent attacks on education. We need to make children safe as they learn. This requires adherence by all to the international laws, resolutions and principles that aim to protect education… Right now, the perpetrators of crimes against education are not being held to account.

Our international institutions are being paralysed from doing the job they were set up to do – preventing conflict and humanitarian crisis.

If the world powers are not actively pursuing peace, we are stuck in a vicious cycle of destruction that we – as the global community – are destined to lose. For we simply cannot rebuild at the pace at which infrastructure is being destroyed.

Let us together call for greater transparency, accountability and the responsible use of the U.N Security Council veto to promote security and peace.

Education is the cornerstone of sustainable development. We cannot construct a building if the cornerstones keep getting destroyed. Nor can we construct a durable building without investing in education as a tool in post-conflict recovery.”

On the work of her foundation, Education Above All (EAA), she will say,

“The programmes of my EAA foundation have been working for almost a decade to protect education, and to provide access to education for millions of children.

What we see, wherever we work, is that by putting education at the centre of development, and by working with a multi-sectoral approach to all our projects, lives and communities are improved in so many ways.”

Graa Machel, Founder and President of the Foundation for Community Development (FDC), and Founder of the Graa Machel Trust will say,

“In 2005, the UN adopted the six grave violations of international law, as outlined in my report. These included attacks against schools, and the killing or maiming of children. Yet we have seen again and again how nation states and armed groups target education and, although condemnatory words are issued, no action is taken. This cannot go on. We need new mechanisms for making sure perpetrators of attacks like these are forced to take responsibility for their actions.”

Forest Whitaker, Founder of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative and UN SDG Advocate will say,

“I have seen first-hand how conflict and violence destroys young lives. My Foundation works across different global regions to foster peace and reconciliation in fragile and disadvantaged communities. Without access to quality education, rebuilding lives is almost impossible. All players in the international community need to play their part in giving every young person a chance of a fulfilling life in which they are supported to achieve their potential.”

Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save The Children UK, will say:

“Schools should be spaces of safety and learning. Yet attacks on schools, and the killing and maiming of school children, are conducted with impunity. We need to collectively stand up for children, protect their rights, and hold accountable those responsible for these contemptible attacks.”

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