Excellency, Sahle – Work Zewde, President of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia,
Excellency Kwesi Quartey, Deputy AUC Chairperson,
Excellency Prof. Sarah, Anyang Agbor, Commissioner Human Resources, Science & Technology,
Excellency, Mr. Smail Chergui, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union,
Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor to be here today with distinguished African leaders, representing Norway on behalf of Norway’s Minister of Development Cooperation Dag Inge Ulstein.
Thank you, Commissioner, for the warm welcome.
Norway is a close partner to the African Union.
For several years, we have worked with the AU on issues of peace and security, gender, democracy - and education.Within our collaboration and support to the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) we have had a very special cooperation with the AU Center for girls’ and women’s education (CIEFFA). Jointly we have arranged a series of High Level Dialogue events on girls’ education, this one being the fourth.
These have all had political level presence from Oslo, attesting to the absolute importance Norway attaches to education for women and girls.
Excellency, President Saleh-Work, we are honored by your presence today.
You have given priority to this meeting to show your support to the right to education – this time with a focus on those that are marginalized and who are left out of education opportunities because of conflict and war.
According to Save the Children’s latest report, almost one fifth of all children live in areas that in some way are affected by armed conflict.
These are staggering figures.
We know that our failure to align with international humanitarian law and protecting children have long-term, devastating effects on the individual child and their communities. And, these are the generations that shall carry this world forward.
There is less than 10 years until the SDGs target 2030. On current trends, we will not achieve SDG 4 by 2030, unless we increase our efforts. In order to ensure that our over-all investments in education pay off, we must do more specifically to protect education from attack.
The gender dimension is essential in understanding how conflict and emergencies affect communities and individuals.Girls and boys are at risk in different ways, they do not have the same experiences. A recent report published by the Global Coalition Protecting Education from Attack, highlights this.
Gendered impact of attacks on education have been documented widely and show that in at least 18 countries worldwide, women and girls were targets of attacks on education because of their gender, including incidents of sexual violence in educational settings.
There is evidence that girls who are forced to leave school early, are less likely than boys to return to a learning situation. Too often they end up marrying too early.
By educating girls, we give them the power to shape their own lives. And shape their community, their country, and their continent.
So, we say, - Girls are particularly important, but don’t forget the boys !
I would like to thank the Deputy Chairperson for his powerful remarks on this a moment ago.
Learners must feel safe at school.
A safe learning environment is a prerequisite for learning.
To address the issue of attacks on schools, the Safe Schools process was initiated.
Civil society, and Norway and Argentina in cooperation with other states and international organisations, started consultations that resulted in the Safe Schools Declaration.The First International Conference on Safe Schools was convened in Oslo in May 2015, and by the end of the conference, 37 states had endorsed the Declaration.
The Second and the Third International Conference on Safe Schools followed in Buenos Aires in 2017 and in Palma, Mallorca in 2019. They focussed on implementation of the Declaration and on the gendered impact of attacks on education.
Today, more than 100 states have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration. 27 AU member states have so far endorsed.
The Safe Schools initiative is often referred to when the protection of civilians and children in armed conflict is on the agenda of the UN Security Council. African states and the AU have been at the forefront since the inception of the declaration, and key to progress made.
The cross-sectoral engagement from education, defence, justice and foreign affairs in many endorsing states is strong in many African endorsing states, and best practice.
That is why the presence with us today of the Commisioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, is so important.
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council has recognized the positive effect of the Safe Schools Declaration, and has urged all its members to endorse and implement it.
The Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) prioritizes safe schools in its 10-year strategy.
We are now exploring the possibility of the fourth international Safe Schools conference be hosted in Africa, with an important role for the African Union.
Better protection of schools in armed conflict requires a long-term commitment on the part of the international community.
Norway is a consistent partner.
We will continue to give political and financial support to child protection, education in emergencies, and the implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration.
I thank you for your attention and I wish you fruitful deliberations.