|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
General Assembly Adopts Landmark Resolution Calling on States to Ensure Right
to Education for Affected Populations in All Phases of Emergency Situations
Member States Urged to Criminalize — under Domestic Law — Attacks on Schools,
as Possible Grave Breaches of Geneva Conventions, or War Crimes under Rome Statute
Reaffirming that everyone should enjoy the human right to education, the General Assembly this afternoon called on Member States to ensure that right for all affected populations in all phases of emergency situations, and urged them to implement strategies and policies towards that goal as integral to humanitarian responses.
Adopting by consensus a text on the right to education in emergency situations — the first of its kind — the Assembly condemned the targeting of schoolchildren, teachers and educational institutions during armed conflict, and urged all parties to conflict to respect students and educational personnel.
The Assembly urged Member States to criminalize — under their domestic law — attacks on educational buildings, stressing that those attacks might be grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and, for States parties, war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
It also urged Member States to ensure that disaster risk and safety considerations were factored into all phases of planning, design, construction and reconstruction of educational facilities, as well as called upon all parties concerned to ensure that peace processes, post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding included specific measures for early access to education, learning and training in secure, friendly environments in the aftermath of emergencies.
Member States were also urged to implement gender-sensitive policies, programmes and quality education that addressed girls’ specific needs during emergencies, including their vulnerability to gender-based violence.
Deeply concerned over the inadequate level of funding for international education goals and that the education sector was among the most under-funded sectors in humanitarian consolidated and flash appeals, the Assembly further called upon Member States and invited the private sector to consider increasing their contributions to education programmes defined in humanitarian appeals.
The representative of Qatar, who introduced the resolution, said it was indicative of the level of international attention to ensure protection of the fundamental right to education, especially in cases where it was greatly threatened. The text was integrated, holistic and it addressed the legal, political, humanitarian and funding aspects of the issue.
Speaking after the vote, the representative of Belgium welcomed the adoption on behalf of the European Union and said that the message of the text was clear: education in emergencies deserved attention at the level of other life-saving needs, which humanitarian assistance aimed to address, such as food and shelter. He stated for the record, however, that the European Union regarded the resolution as not altering in any way the current norms and obligations of international human rights and humanitarian law, but merely attempted to clarify how those standards related to the issue of education. Financing should be accomplished according to assessed needs.
The resolution, he added, was an excellent opportunity to consolidate all relevant issues concerning the right to education in emergency situations, while entrusting further follow-up to the appropriate United Nations bodies. In that context, he welcomed the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s establishment of an educational cluster to address, in a coordinated manner, educational needs in emergency situations, and he commended the work of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, other United Nations agencies and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed conflict.
The representative of Costa Rica, also speaking after the vote, similarly welcomed the success of the resolution, which his country had worked to see adopted. The delegate said that the number of children deprived of education was alarming, particularly since education played an important role in risk mitigation and reduction.
Also today, the Assembly decided to ask its President to hold further consultations with Member States to resolve pending procedural aspects of the high-level review, scheduled for 24 and 25 September, of progress in addressing the vulnerabilities of small island developing States through implementing the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Acton for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.
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