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Ambassador Zhang Jun: Schools cannot fall victim to armed conflict

2020/09/10

Schools cannot fall victim to armed conflict, and it is our common responsibility to put children in a safe haven and unlock their best chance for the future, said Ambassador Zhang Jun, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations, at the Security Council open debate on “Children and Armed Conflict: Attacks against schools - a grave violation of children’s rights” on 10 September 2020.

This open debate was organized as one of the signature events under Niger’s presidency. The Security Council listened to the briefings by Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict, Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and three civil society representatives.

Hailing the first International Day to Protect Education from Attack on 9 September, Ambassador Zhang also expressed concerns over the alarming number of cases where students and education personnel were killed and injured in attacks on schools in the situations of armed conflict. He further emphasized the necessity of education, not just for children themselves, but also for breaking the recurring cycle of violence.

Ambassador Zhang stressed, the red line of international humanitarian law prohibiting attacks on schools cannot be crossed. The civilian nature of schools must be fully respected. Any attacks on schools, students, and education personnel, as well as the military use of schools, should be condemned in the strongest terms and put to an end immediately. Education must remain a priority with more inputs from the governments. It is imperative to improve school infrastructure and enhance its endurance under attacks. Legal and administrative means should be used comprehensively to prevent schools from being targeted by armed forces.

Ambassador Zhang pointed out, education cannot wait. Immediate measures should be taken to reconstruct school facilities to restore a secure environment for children’s return. Digital technology is a useful means to facilitate more learning opportunities and minimize the negative impact of school closure. The disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children in conflict should continue to be addressed, and measures need to be taken to mitigate the impact of unilateral sanctions on children. The fundamental approach to protecting children from the harm of armed conflict is to stop and resolve armed conflicts. China urges all parties to conflicts to echo Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire as soon as possible, and create a peaceful and stable environment for the growth of the younger generation.

Ambassador Zhang Jun said, China takes education as a top priority and attaches great importance to providing educational assistance to other developing countries. Over the past five years, China has helped build 123 schools and vocational training centers in developing countries. China stands ready to work with the international community to make every effort to ensure that every child has access to education and is given a brighter future.

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