By Neil Halligan
In a major speech at the World Innovation Summit for Education, attended by US First Lady Michelle Obama, the Qatari royal called for the UN resolutions on attacks on schools, hospitals to be enforced and countries who disregard them to be held accountable
Wars and conflicts in the region have put education in a backwards motion, Qatar's Sheikha Moza bint Nasser said in a major speech this week in Doha.
Speaking at the World Innovation Summit for Education in the Qatari capital, which was attended by the US First Lady, Michelle Obama (below), Sheikha Moza said the unrest in the region is affecting the education of three million young people.
“In this region, we are not only paralyzed but going backwards at the speed of light,” she said.
“Ironically, had we just been going backwards, we would be better off. For example, prior to the first Gulf war in 1991, Iraq’s primary enrolment rate was at 100 percent. In fact Iraq was awarded the UNESCO International Literacy Prize in 1982. A recent UNESCO report estimates there are at least three million primary aged children out of school in Iraq and Syria alone.”
She said a coalition of nations, which included Qatar, introduced a UN resolution on ‘The Right to Education in Emergency Situations’ at the UN General Assembly in 2010. She explained that it affirms the human right to education and access to it during crisis and conflict and urges countries to fulfil their obligations under international law, to respect civilians and to not attack teachers, students, and education facilities.
She added that the Security Council Resolution 1998 (adopted in July 2011) makes attacks on schools and hospitals a ‘trigger violation’ for the UN’s Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism for Children and Armed Conflict.
“But what are we doing to enforce these resolutions? Why do we watch perpetrators get away without even the slightest penalty?” Sheikha Moza said.
“Let me be frank - it is not only Iraq, or even Syria and Palestine, which are targets of attacks on education. Between 2009 and 2012 there were at least 30 countries which were heavily affected by attacks on schools. This is a global problem.”
She said it was important to have up-to-date, reliable, and verified information that can be used to better plan intervention programs to support children living in conflict zones and to help them pursue their education.
“Holding perpetrators, whether state or non-state actors, accountable, and forcing them to take full responsibility for their deeds, will, no doubt, serve as a deterrent to others. Therefore, mechanisms to enforce this accountability, through both financial reparations and punishment from the international community of nations, must be seriously considered and put in place,” she said.
Sheikha Moza said investment in education means investment in its medium and long term future.