Bridging the Gap and Crossing the Bridge

  • Opinion by Yasmine Sherif (new york)
  • Inter Press Service
  • Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait

In fact, there are multiple challenges to overcome: in 2020, in countries of emergencies and protracted crisis - further hit by COVID-19 - the United Nations also registered more than 19,000 grave violations against children, according to the UN Secretary-General’s Report on Children in Armed Conflict, dated 22 May.

This crucial issue was further addressed in the subsequent UN Security Council open debate meeting on 28 June 2021. These grave violations include: the killing and maiming of children and youth; abduction of girls and boys; attacks against schools, their students and teachers; recruitment and use of children as soldiers; widespread sexual violence; and, the denial of access to schools for children and youth.

Despite this, on 5 July, another 150 students were reportedly abducted from a school in Kaduna State, Nigeria. Abductions, attacks against schools and schoolchildren appear to be increasing in frequency and they must end now. We join our strategic partners in calling for the safe, swift return of these girls and boys to their families.

This must be our wake-up call, spurring us to take strong collective action so that every child and youth can enjoy their inherent human right to quality education - without fear of airstrikes, abductions, sexual and gender-based violence and forced recruitment into armed and violent groups.

The numbers are staggering. Last year more than 8,400 children and youth were killed or maimed in ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Another 7,000 were recruited and used as fighters, mainly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia and Syria. Abductions rose by 90 per cent last year, while rape and other forms of sexual violence shot up a staggering 70 per cent.

These numbers represent young people suffering multiple concurrent challenges: COVID-19, armed conflicts and lawlessness, a rise in severity of climate change-induced disasters, forced displacement and underlying issues of extreme poverty, hunger and inequality. Each one by itself is enough to push far too many girls and boys out of school, destroying their hope and stalling progress to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the full spectrum of human rights, and the commitments of the Safe Schools Declaration.

In emergency and protracted crises contexts, no such challenge comes alone, but rather as combined factors creating a storm of extreme helplessness, unspeakable pain and a loss of hope in the future. The innocent children and youth are the first victims, quickly followed by their families, communities, societies, their countries and indeed the world.

As the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, Education Cannot Wait places physical and legal protection and the respect for international law at the center of its investments in delivering on SDG4 for those left furthest behind. In closing the gap and racing for the Sustainable Development Goals, we must bridge the gap between our commitments in international law and the Safe School Declaration. We need the world’s leaders to look afar and within: to take all measures possible - political, financial, legal, physical - to support a safe and inclusive quality education for all girls and boys enduring daily threats to their lives in emergencies and protracted crisis.

During the June Security Council sessions, nations across the globe stood up to call for expanded support for education in emergencies and protracted crisis. As the most powerful body in the United Nations system, the UN Security Council can and must uphold peace and security and, in so doing, create an environment in which 128 million children and youth in crisis can safely access their right to an inclusive and continued quality education.

As a UN/UNICEF hosted global fund, Education Cannot Wait invokes both fast-acting emergency responses and multi-year resilience programmes in some of the most crisis-affected countries on the globe, such as in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Lebanon and Nigeria. By embracing a new way of working and bridging the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, Education Cannot Wait puts education first - not second, third or fourth - and ensures that protective measures are embedded in all its investments.

Still, we also need the Security Council and all UN Member States and Regional Organizations to translate their political muscle into financial resources and put an end to breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights law. With such powerful support, Syrian girls living with disabilities like Kawthar will have a chance to go to school for the first time. Teenagers like Maraseel Alsaqaf can sit for exams in Yemen and dream one day of becoming doctors and engineers. Ten-year-old Sabah and her friends can return to school in Somalia.

As a global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crisis, and as a global movement for action, we jointly call on world leaders to make political choices based on legal imperatives and financial abundance. Indeed, our strategic partners: governments, public and private sector donors, UN agencies, civil society organizations, academia and the media stand together in our shared vision for those left furthest behind. Join ECW’s growing global movement to end grave violations and abuses against children and youth so they can benefit from their right to a safe learning environment and quality education. We call on public donors, the private sector and philanthropic foundations to urgently mobilize US$400 million for ECW.

In this month’s ECW Newsletter, we feature a compelling and inspiring interview with Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, who is one of our fearless, tireless and passionate stakeholders and global leaders working round the clock to pave the way toward achieving universal and equitable quality education by 2030 in some of the most conflict-ridden parts of the world.

For girls like Kawthar, Maraseel and Sabah, education cannot wait and safe schools cannot wait. With bold, courageous and swift political and financial action, we can reach girls like Kawthar, Maraseel and Sabah with same sense of urgency. By bridging the gap, we can help them, and 128 million crisis-affected children and youth cross the bridge.

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© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service