By Anna Azaryeva
NEW YORK, 10 March 2011 – This year’s ‘Education for All’ Global Monitoring Report warns that armed conflict is robbing 28 million primary school-aged children of their education. The comprehensive analysis – ‘The hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education – finds that wars and violence are taking an unprecedented toll on children’s access to education.
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UNICEF Radio moderator Amy Costello spoke with Mary Robinson about children and schools in conflict-affected countries, and the need to prosecute those who commit human rights violations against children.
Ms. Robinson – President of Mary Robinson Foundation–Climate Justice and former President of Ireland – delivered remarks at the launch of this year’s report. She is a life-long champion of human rights and has served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
‘End to impunity’
“The report had an interesting recommendation for a Commission for Systemic Rape and Other Sexual Violence, linked with the International Criminal Court,” Ms. Robinson told UNICEF Radio. “I think that it is something worth looking at.”
Despite progress in monitoring and reporting in conflict-affected countries, including attacks on schools and children, there is still a lack of action in following up and breaking the cycle of violations.
“I am very glad now that there is reaching out to the most marginalized children,” said Ms. Robinson. “These children who are subject to violence are the most in need of championing and of having strong voices, and arguing for an end to impunity.”
More than 40 per cent of all primary school-aged children not enrolled in school live in conflict-affected nations, exposing them to a range of threats including rape and sexual violence, as well as other human rights abuses.
Children in the front line
The recent decision by the UN Security Council to refer Libya to the International Criminal Court is significant, added Ms. Robinson. “My hope is that we are getting the message from those young men and women who are risking their lives to claim their right to human dignity, to freedom, to democracy, to human rights.”
That said, more priority needs to be given to delivering education to children caught up in conflict situations. Ms. Robinson noted only two per cent of funding goes toward education in conflict situations and said the current tally is unacceptable.
“Education is all the more necessary when you have been displaced from your home.” she said. “You need to have the opportunities that education gives you.”