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Thank you, Minister.
At the outset, I would like to thank Norway and Niger for bringing this important topic to the attention of this format. It is encouraging to see so many representatives here today, all concerned about the protection of education in conflict situations. I also want to thank the briefers for bringing the sad reality and the enormous relevance of this issue closer to all of us.
During this past year, in a wide range of conflicts, schools remained targets of violent attacks at a high rate, with devastating effects especially on girls. According to Save the Children, more than 400 million children currently living in conflict areas do not have access to safe education – these alarming figures can leave no one untouched. They oblige all of us to continue to intensify our efforts to protect children against grave violations, and to strengthen international cooperation to ensure full respect of their rights.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the widespread closures of schools and health facilities in conflict-affected regions have left children without access to healthcare and education. Out-of-school children have faced increased vulnerability to grave violations, including recruitment and misuse by parties to conflict. Furthermore, schools have become easier targets for use of military action. Germany strongly condemns these violations of international law as well as the continued widespread military use of schools in armed conflict.
Echoing the recently adopted Security Council resolution 2601, we call on all parties to armed conflict to immediately cease attacks and threats of attacks that are in contravention of international humanitarian law against schools and civilians connected with schools, including children and teachers. We urge fellow member states to develop measures to prevent and to address attacks on schools and other educational facilities, including in national strategic frameworks. We must ensure that all children, especially those with multiple vulnerabilities, including children with disabilities, refugee children, and those who are internally displaced, have access to quality education on an equal basis. This is crucial to end cycles of violence.
Germany has endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration and calls on States, which have not done so yet, to join this important Declaration. Germany also gladly participated in the Safe Schools Declaration conference in Abuja last October, which aimed at accelerating the implementation of humanitarian law principles into tangible achievements. International humanitarian law has to be further promoted and implemented and, very importantly, violations need to be accounted for; only then can the principles of the Safe Schools Declaration be best ensured in practice.
As strong supporter of the UN children and armed conflict agenda – which has been a priority for long, including during our Security Council membership in 2019/2020, - Germany continues to devote considerable financial support to children in crisis regions: In 2021, we will provide 2.4 billion Euros in humanitarian assistance which makes us the second biggest bilateral donor. We support projects that promote among other things safe access to basic services and protection against violations across the globe - projects run, for example, by civil society organizations, such as “Geneva Call” or “Watchlist”. We seize this occasion to commend the outstanding commitment of local as well as international civil society organisations to protect the most vulnerable in situations of armed conflict.
As we heard today from the excellent briefers, we, States and the UN system as a whole, need to step up our collective and our own engagement for the protection of the most vulnerable: children are our future, so that their protection from violence and their education remain key. As they face specific challenges, girls especially need our attention in this endeavor. Girls’ schools are often attacked, with specific consequences, including rape and pregnancy from rape, forced marriage, and the resulting stigma and serious health concerns, all of which further impede their continued education. Additionally, girls are much more likely to permanently stay out of school once schools close. Often these girls do not finish their education.
We must ensure that no one is left behind in our efforts to protect education in conflict situations. Promoting children’s rights, especially their right to education, is a key pillar of Germany’s human rights policy. Germany will remain committed to advancing the CAAC Agenda in all its aspects.
In closing, Minister, Germany aligns itself to the statements made by the Group of Friends and the European Union.