United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has welcomed the unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly to establish 9 September as the International Day to Protect Education from Attack calling on UNESCO and UNICEF to raise awareness of the plight of millions of children living in countries affected by conflict. The resolution proclaiming the Day was presented by the State of Qatar and co-sponsored by 62 countries.
‘As the world fights to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, children and youth in conflict zones remain among the most vulnerable to its devastating impact. We must ensure our children have a safe and secure environment in which to learn the knowledge and skills they need for the future’ said UN Secretary-General and he welcomed “the proclamation of 9 September as the International Day to Protect Education From Attack as safeguarding the right to education for all contributes to the achievement of sustainable development and nurtures international community’s decades-long gains towards peace, economic prosperity and social inclusion worldwide. I especially want to express appreciation for the contribution of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, who called in September 2019 for a day dedicated to protect education from attack – and indeed, the resolution that has been adopted will set 9 September as that international day.”
The Day draws attention to the plight of more than 75 million 3-to-18-year-olds living in 35 crisis-affected countries and to their urgent need of educational support. It expresses concern over the effects of continued violence on these children and their ability to access education, whose consequences require special attention beyond the needs of learners whose establishments were temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Schools must remain safe places, free of conflict and violence,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, welcoming the General Assembly decision. “Our collective future as well as the achievements of all development goals depend on it. As attacks on education at all levels during armed conflict are on the rise, the proclamation by the UN of the International Day to Protect Education from Attack is an important step forward, and we thank Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser for the initiative and all Member States for supporting the resolution. This is particularly timely in the context of Covid-19 that has shown the value of schools as spaces for protection and wellbeing. UNESCO is determined to act with all partners to uphold the right to education and make safe schools a reality for everyone, everywhere, at all times.”
“As the world begins planning to re-open schools once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, we must ensure that schools remain safe places of learning -- even in countries in conflict,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Attacks on schools are a violation of humanity and basic decency. We must not allow these senseless attacks to destroy the hopes and dreams of a generation of children. We acknowledge the leadership of Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser and the State of Qatar for presenting the resolution to help ensure that schools and the children and teachers within them are protected.”
The General Assembly resolution affirms that governments have the primary responsibility to provide protection and ensure inclusive and equitable quality education at all levels to all learners, especially those in vulnerable situations. It further emphasizes the need to intensify efforts and increase funding to promote safe and protective school environments in humanitarian emergencies by taking all feasible measures to protect schools, learners and educational personnel from attack, refrain from actions that impede children’s access to education, and facilitate access to education in situations of armed conflict.
UNESCO and UNICEF will facilitate the annual observance of the Day in close collaboration with partners within and outside the UN system. Working on the frontlines in conflict-affected countries, the UN entities have long assisted Member States in strengthening their capacity to provide access to quality educational opportunities for all in times of crisis.
In proclaiming International Day to Protect Education from Attack, the UN is sending a clear message regarding the importance of safeguarding schools as places of protection and safety for students and educators and the need to keep education at the top of the public agenda. This remains a priority while governments continue to grapple with the COVID 19 pandemic that has led to school closures for more than 90% of the world’s student population.
After advocating for the importance of this day during the 2019 General Assembly High-level week and Social Forum for the Human Rights Council, HH Sheikha Moza said, “Amid this global pandemic, it is vital to ensure that the diseases of armed conflict and illiteracy that were prevalent before do not spread further. That is why I am pleased that the General Assembly has recognized the significance of this urgent issue and established an International Day to Protect Education from Attack. Our challenge now, as an international community, is to translate our vision of education for all from political will into real change on the ground. Attacks on schools must halt and perpetrators of these heinous attacks must be held to account, so that the millions of children deprived of education in conflict settings can aspire to a better future. Education is their lifeline and we must protect it.”
Media contact: Clare O’Hagan, UNESCO Press Service,