Basic education and gender equality

New report details armed conflicts’ toll on education and calls for boost in international aid

'Education for All' Global Monitoring Report launched

© UNICEF/2011/Kamimura
Panellists gather for launch of the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, focusing on education and armed conflict, at Columbia University in New York.

By Gabrielle Galanek

NEW YORK, USA, 3 March 2011 – More than 40 per cent of the world's out-of-school children live in conflict-affected countries, according to UNESCO’s newly released 2011 ‘Education for All’ Global Monitoring Report (GMR), which details how the humanitarian community is failing to provide critical educational needs to 28 million children around the world.

The comprehensive report – ‘The hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education’ – was launched by a host of international figures this week at Columbia University in New York. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, and Graça Machel, founder and President of the Foundation for Community Development, sent video messages.

Every year the GMR monitors progress towards the ‘Education for All’ goal to meet the education needs of all children by 2015. This year’s report set out a comprehensive agenda for change, including tougher action against human rights violations, an overhaul of global aid priorities, strengthened rights for displaced people and more attention to the ways education failures can increase the risk of conflict.

Power of education

“Armed conflict remains a major roadblock to human development in many parts of the world, yet its impact on education is widely neglected,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. “Education lies at the frontline of conflict – it should be at the forefront of building peace."

The GMR also calls for an end to a culture of impunity surrounding sexual violence, a more rigorous application of existing international law and the creation of an International Commission on Rape and Sexual Violence backed by the International Criminal Court.

“Human rights are an ‘Education for All’ policy issue front and centre,” said Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002. “As the nature of armed conflicts change, children are no longer suffering as collateral damage. Children and schools in particular have become a subject of systematic and deliberate attacks.”

Added Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile and Executive Director of the newly established UN-Women: “Children are forced to live in a climate of terror. The 2011 GMR provides a stark reminder that no monitoring or high level resolution is a substitute to delivering protection when it its needed.”

Financing far below need

Many of the world’s poorest countries spend significantly more on arms than basic education. If the 21 countries with the biggest disparity were to cut military spending by just 10 per cent, an additional 9.5 million children could attend school.

© UNICEF/2011/Kamimura
H.E. Michaëlle Jean, 27th Governor General of Canada and UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti, speaks at the launch of the 'Global Monitoring Report' at Columbia University in New York.

“We have no financial crisis, we have a moral crisis,” said Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, noting the failure of the international community to allocate adequate resources to education.

H.E. Michaëlle Jean, UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti and former Governor General of Canada, echoed the urgency of the education crisis facing children when speaking of the devastation in her native country following last year’s earthquake.

“Access to education is a matter of life and death for Haiti’s children and youth,” Ms. Jean asserted, speaking at length about education as the pillar of stable and peaceful nations. “Education has the capacity to instil faith in the transformative power of truth and reconciliation,” she said.

Pathway to development

UNICEF has a long history of delivering education to children during and after conflict and natural disasters. With generous funding from the Government of the Netherlands, UNICEF initiated a $201 million programme to strengthen education access and quality, and to contribute to stability, in emergency and post-crisis transition countries. Since 2007, the ‘Back on Track’ programme has provided educational opportunities in 41 countries for an estimated 6 million children annually.

One of the recommendations in the report was to enhance the role of UNESCO and UNICEF in peace-building initiatives, seen as a vital component to building resilience against future conflict – and in helping communities heal after war. UNICEF is currently undertaking a research study on the role that education can play in peace-building and long-term development plans for crisis-hit countries.

Though travelling in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Anthony Lake addressed the audience in his video message. “Armed conflicts destroy more than lives and buildings. They destroy progress and can defeat potential,” Mr. Lake said, underscoring UNICEF’s commitment to education as a pathway to sustainable development.
It is hoped that with renewed interest in the impact of education amid armed conflict, government, donors and civil society will use the new GMR to advocate for the importance of education in international development efforts.



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