First, let me thank UNESCO and the Office of the Special Representative (of the Secretary-General) for Children and Armed Conflict, and our fellow co-sponsors, for making this event possible.
Few things are more important for children and young people than safe access to education. This is particularly true in areas affected by conflict. The protective environment that schools provide can be lifesaving.
I want to point at some important achievements and initiatives established over the last years when it comes to creating tools to protect education, and to preserve knowledge.
Norway has been a consistent, active supporter of education in emergencies and conflict for many years. The Safe Schools Declaration was launched in Oslo in 2015, and is now endorsed by 114 states. We urge all states to endorse and implement the declaration, as it is a valuable tool to prevent military use of schools and reduce the number of attacks on education in armed conflicts.
We also support the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) and welcome their new report, Education under attack 2022. It documents increased attacks on education and education facilities, and increased military use of schools over the last two years. Destruction of educational facilities, and denial of access to education, has immediate and long-term negative impacts on the lives of children and youth, their communities and society.
Furthermore, it was an important landmark when the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2601, initiated by Niger and Norway. It was the first resolution uniquely dedicated to the protection of education. It recognized the need for concrete measures to mitigate the negative consequences caused by the military use of schools.
We must continue to address the gaps in the implementation of existing commitments in protecting schools from attack. We also need to ensure the continuation of education during conflicts - including by investing in education in situations of crisis and conflict.
For those fleeing conflict, who are unable to document their qualifications, it is of utmost importance to secure that their qualifications and competencies are assessed and recognized in a professional way.
I would also like to share an important example in this regard: the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees, established by Council of Europe, with the support of Norway. As a standardized document it explains the qualifications a refugee is likely to have based on available evidence. The document presents available information on educational level, work experience and language proficiency. It provides credible information relevant for applications for employment and studies. This is important for refugees’ chance to establish themselves in a new place. 19 Member States of Council of Europe are part of the project.
UNESCO, also with the assistance of Norway, expanded on this success, and the UNESCO’s Qualifications Passport for Refugees and Vulnerable Migrants has, so far, been introduced in Zambia and Iraq. It is a modern universal tool to facilitate mobility for refugees and vulnerable migrants with previously acquired qualifications.
To conclude, safe access to education remains of crucial importance. The knowledge and skills acquired by children and youth cannot be taken away. Their future depends on education. And we all agree that our future depends on them.