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Need for Education of Children in Conflict

For immediate release
Thursday 20 November 2008

Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Turn Spotlight on Need for Education of Children in Conflict

In a first-ever joint statement, more than thirty winners of the Nobel Peace Prize today, the anniversary of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child signed in 1989 and Universal Children’s Day, called for urgent action to implement quality education and build peace in conflict-affected countries.

The Nobel Laureates, including former US President Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, urged world leaders to pay more attention to the educational needs of more than 37 million children who live in fragile states and that are unable to go to school.

In a joint letter to world leaders, initiated by Save the Children, thirty-one Nobel Peace Prize winners say: “War and conflict are perpetrated by adults. But every adult was once a child and grew up with experiences and guidance that shaped their lives. At the heart of this lies education. But if more than 70 million children do not even have the chance to go to school, and more than half of these children live in countries affected by armed conflict - what are these children learning?”

The letter comes at a time when millions of children continue to be denied an education because of war. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, even before the recent fighting, 5 million of the 9.6 million children of school age are unable to go to school. Without adequate protection from the escalating conflict in recent weeks, even more children have been forced to flee their schools.
Some schools have even been targeted to recruit schoolchildren as child soldiers. An analysis of civil wars of the past fifty years showed that each year with an increased level of education in a country reduces the risk of conflict by around 20% – yet children trapped in this spiral of conflict continue to be denied education.

The Nobel Peace Prize winners are writing in support of Save the Children’s global campaign Rewrite the Future focusing on providing education for children living in conflict-affected fragile states, calling for greater funding for education which will in turn build peace and stability. The Nobel Peace winners’ call for action comes on the anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and Universal Children’s Day, and three weeks before the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in December.

Former US President Jimmy Carter, who won the prize for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, said: “I have seen the beneficial impact of education in promoting peace. It would be a mistake to underestimate the influence that children can have in shaping the opinions and decisions of adults.”

Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Secretary General of the International Save the Children Alliance, continued: “We are delighted that these champions of peace have chosen to speak out with a united voice for the first time. Their support shows that if the international community is serious about ending conflict and building lasting peace in countries like Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan, then education has to be a top priority.”

Petri Gornitzka is currently visiting Uganda, a country affected by decades of rural conflict in northern areas, but where peace-negotiated agreements have supported local authorities’ education initiatives. “Peace processes provide an important opportunity to improve education systems and help foster peace. When parties in a conflict are engaged in a peace process, there is a rare focus and opportunity to agree on a shared new education blueprint for the country,” she added.

Individuals who have signed the letter include Jimmy Carter, Kim Dae-Jung, Frederik W. de Klerk, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi. Together they span 17 countries and have been directly involved in the resolution of 15 conflicts. Amongst the organizations supporting the letter are UNICEF, the ILO, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the International Peace Bureau, whose founders won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1910.

Notes to the editors:
 A 700-word opinion article by 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire is available. Mairead Maquire co-founded Community of Peace People, an organisation which encouraged a peaceful resolution of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. She believed the most effective way to end the violence was not violence but re-education.
 A 1450-word article commissioned by a freelance writer is available for use by magazines and newspapers.
 Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Secretary General for International Save the Children Alliance is available for radio interviews from Uganda.
 Case studies and images of children affected by the conflict situation in Eastern DRC are available.

Please visit www.savethechildren.org.nz to view:
 The joint letter signed by Nobel Peace Price Laureates.
 A video interview with Mairead Maguire about the joint letter and her belief that education builds peace.


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