"Education is number one priority," declares Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi

On 2 November, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, met with the Prime Minister of Iraq, HE Mr Haider Al-Abadi, in Baghdad, Iraq.

The Director-General said she was in Iraq to stand with the Iraqi people and government in a time of rising crisis, and to reiterate the need for dialogue and tolerance as the foundations for lasting peace.

She expressed her firm commitment to working with the Iraqi government to mitigate the impact of the crisis, highlighting the important role of education on all levels – as a force for human rights and dignity, to foster social cohesion and promote civic values.

The Prime Minister said that education is a number one priority, underlining the need for young people to learn to live together. He stressed the need to move quickly in response to the terrorist threat, to strengthen the prospects for reconciliation now.

In this respect, Ms Bokova pledged UNESCO’s continuing commitment to address this hidden crisis – by supporting access to quality education, by providing accelerated learning and catch up classes, by bolstering alternative learning opportunities to ensure the fundamental right to education.

She said that UNESCO is now establishing four fully-equipped secondary schools in the camps of Baharka (Governorate of Erbil), Dawodiya (Governorate of Dohouk) and Barzanja (Governorate of Sulymanihiya) and renovating 23 secondary schools in host communities in Dohouk, Erbil, Sulymanhiya, Basra, Najaf, Karbala and Baghdad.

Learning to live together is essential, said the Prime Minister, and this is also why safeguarding and promoting cultural heritage is so important: "this heritage belongs to all humanity --Iraqis must protect it with the support of UNESCO."

Referring to the deteriorating safety of journalists in Iraq, the Director-General noted 2 November as the inaugural International Day to end impunity for crimes against journalists. 

She indicated that UNESCO is working with stakeholders to increase the safety of journalists under the UN Plan of Action for the Protection of Journalists and the issue of impunity, and called for more effective measures to protect journalists and allow them to perform their duty.

Since January, Irina Bokova has publically condemned the killing of six journalists -- Firas Mohammed Attiyah, Muthanna Abdul Hussein and Khaled Abdul Thamer, Mohammed Bdaiwi Owaid Al-Shammari,  Leyla Yildizhan (aka Deniz Firat) and Raad Al Azawi.

“This is a devastating toll that undermines freedom of expression, the rule of law and good governance,” she declared.

Irina Bokova pledged the commitment of UNESCO to support all efforts to fight impunity and enhance the safety of journalists in Iraq – starting with support to the implementation of the UN Plan of Action for the Protection of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, spearheaded by UNESCO – for which Iraq is a pilot country.