Cablegate: Unesco Hosts Education Conference On Iraq

DE RUEHFR #2105/01 3191744
R 141744Z NOV 08



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Summary: On October 30 - November 1, 2008 UNESCO and the First
Lady of Qatar, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned, hosted the
International Conference on the Right to Education in
Crisis-Affected Countries entitled "Stop Jeopardizing the Future of
Iraq" in Paris. Director General Matsuura opened the conference,
which brought together 150-200 participants from multi-lateral
organizations, NGO's and members of the academic community in Iraq,
including the Iraqi Education Ministry. Discussion focused
primarily on the problems of educating children - especially girls
-- amid violence and uncertainty. While the discussion was for the
most part business-like and apolitical, the U.S. was sharply
criticized by an academic in the audience who held the US entirely
responsible for the situation. In concluding remarks, Sheikha Mozah
called for creation of a committee to ensure the conference's
recommendations are followed up and announced a meeting in Doha on
November 30, 2008 to consider the problems of education in conflict
zones more generally. End Summary.

2. A major focus of the conference was how to restore Iraq's
educational system and encourage teachers, educators, and students
to return to the classroom. Security issues and lack of schools as
well as the constant threat of violence were primary topics of the
conference. Many of the panelists spoke about the lack of the
implementation of a right to education in Iraq, particularly among
girls, due to the violence and destruction of school infrastructure.
However, achievements were also outlined by several Ministers
including improved planning, better international collaboration and
the slow return of teachers to the classroom.

3. On the first day of the conference, panel discussions focused on
education in conflict and post-conflict reconstruction with
discussions on the legal framework of the right to education in
conflict countries, the role of the media in advocacy for that
right, humanitarian responses in the education sector and
post-conflict reconstruction in the education sector. Experts from
other post-conflict areas, specifically Afghanistan and Palestine,
spoke about the successes they had achieved as well as the
challenges and barriers they still had to overcome.

4. One member of the panel, Mr. Saad Jaber, Deputy Director of the
Center for North African Studies, spoke about the legal framework of
the right to education in conflict. He stated that according to
international law, aggression against educators was a crime against
humanity but the question was how to enforce this. He stated that
first one must document the events. He also said that occupying
powers have a certain responsibility to protect educators, not just
the Ministry of Defense, because education is a right.

5. During the question and answer period, an academic in the
audience attacked the United States as being responsible for the
deaths of academics both directly and indirectly, and for preventing
students from taking exams due to roadblocks and other barriers that
prevented their going to school. She said that American occupying
forces are jeopardizing the future of Iraq and should be condemned
because they only destroy. She questioned why embargoes are put
around cities during final exams, and said that students had been
arrested while studying on their roofs when American troops went
"parading" by. She stated that Iraqis did not need anyone to show
them how to build an education system but they needed to demonstrate
the aggressiveness of the U.S. and give compensation to everyone who
was hurt. She concluded that the role of the media is to tell the
truth about the occupiers and demanded that an investigation of the
deaths of academics be done because, in her view, the Americans were
primarily responsible for all of this, and should be forced to pay

6. These comments were received with support and applause. The
UNESCO Secretariat looked uncomfortable and tried to keep the
meeting under control. Mr. Jaber said that compensation could be
looked at for both individuals and institutions, but it would have
to be done respecting both national and international law. He
recommended an investigative body be established to look into all of
this, and that a file be created on all the harm done by the
Americans. He ended by saying that any request for compensation had
to be done on a diplomatic level. The Minister of Education from
Kurdistan commented that we must look to the future not the past
because this crisis did not start with the Americans, but with
Saddam Hussein who had started all of this and who had closed 4000
schools. There was no response to his comments.

7. Recommendations #8 and #10 from the conference (see attachment)
specifically address these concerns and are directly aimed at the
United States. We are concerned that these two recommendations
could lead to problems for the United States in the area of
education in Iraq. (Comment: The Iraqi Ambassador to UNESCO told
Ambassador Oliver that the academic in the audience (referred to
above) should be ignored but the fact remains that two of the
recommendations adopted by the conference reflect her concerns and
those of Mr. Jaber. End Comment.)

8. The second day of the conference was divided into five working
groups: access to quality basic education in Iraq; issues facing

UNESCOPARI 11142105 002 OF 003

universities in Iraq; the protection of Iraqi intellectuals,
academics, teachers, students and educational institutions;
educational issues facing internally displaced persons and the
implications they have for the Iraqi education system; and,
educational issues facing refugees in neighboring countries and
their implications on the Iraqi education system. The United States
did not attend these working group sessions. On the final day of
the conference, draft recommendations from these working groups were
presented to the plenary session (see Para #11 below).

9. Attendees were primarily officials from the Iraqi Education
Ministry, NGO's from neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon
and Syria, and academics representing the university system in Iraq.
Very few UNESCO delegations attended the conference, and while the
UNESCO headquarters staff was represented among the panelists, it
was not directly involved in organizing the conference. Officials
of UNESCO's Iraq field office located in Amman, Jordan, took the
lead working with Sheikha Mozah and her staff. (Comment: We
understand the Sheikha was the prime mover behind this conference,
having expressed concerns to UNESCO that she was upset because she
did not know how US Dols 15 million she gave UNESCO in 2005 had been
spent. End Comment.) In her closing statement, Sheikha Mozah
stated that she did not believe that any change had taken place in
Iraq to restore the educational system.

10. Note: Ambassador Oliver attended the first day of the
conference and was welcomed to the conference by the UNESCO
Ambassador from Qatar who told her he was glad to see her. However,
the former Ambassador to Lebanon who is Lebanon's representative on
the UNESCO Executive Board, Ms. Samira Hanna-El-Daher, told
Ambassador Oliver that people sitting around her expressed surprise
that Ambassador Oliver had attended. Ambassador Oliver asked, "Why
shouldn't I be here? It's a UNESCO meeting." The former Lebanese
Ambassador agreed with her but still stated that many people in the
audience were surprised that Ambassador Oliver had attended the
conference. Privately the UN representative told Ambassador Oliver
that the United States had been indispensable to his work in
education in Iraq but this was not stated publicly.

11. In closing the conference, Sheikha Mozah emphasized that neither
Education for All (EFA) goals nor Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs) would be achieved if more international attention and
financing were not focused on crisis-affected countries.

12. Draft recommendations from the conference: "The Paris
Conference on the Right to Education in Crisis-Affected Countries:
"Stop Jeopardizing the Future of Iraq" follow below:

1. Develop a national vision, mission and strategy for
education at all levels based on a consultation of all
stakeholders, and design policies based on updated,
accurate data and relevant studies and analysis.

2. The Iraqi Government and international partners need to
take urgent measures to increase access to education by:
- Meeting the need for additional schools and classes
based on a mapping system, needs assessment,
appropriate designs;
- Expanding formal and non-formal learning
Opportunities for out-of-school children, youth and
adult illiterates;
- Encourage private sector investment and community involvement in
education to complement government efforts in increasing access;

3. The Iraqi Government and international partners need to take
urgent measures to increase quality of education by:
- Curriculm development;
- Qualification and performance standards for teachers;
- Pre-service and in-service training programmes for teachers;
- Capacity building for improved school management and educational
- Enhancing the quality of teaching and learning materials and
equipment and promoting child-friendly schools;

4. The Iraqi government and international partners should help to
reform the higher education system by developing and upgrading the
curriculum, by using modern technologies, by reviewing legislation
concerning university governance, and by providing opportunities for
further training for university lecturers;

5. Include courses and programmes in Iraqi universities that enhance
national identity and principles of citizenship.

6. Through consultation with the relevant authorities, encourage the
return to Iraq of academics, and benefit from the skills and
expertise of Iraqi academics whether inside or outside Iraq.

7. With the help of universities in other countries and
international organizations, increase the opportunities for Iraqi
academics and students to teach, carry out research and study

UNESCOPARI 11142105 003 OF 003

8. The international community should explicitly recognize crimes
against educators as crimes against humanity or war crimes. An
international and independence investigative body should be
established with the cooperation of Iraq to investigate all such
crimes. Furthermore, a UN rapporteur should be sent to Iraq to

9. Mechanisms should be established in Iraq to ensure the safety and
security of educators and students and to create an environment
conducive to the return of those who have left. Fundamental to this
will be the establishment of the neutrality of educational
institutions through transparency and neutral curricula and
administrative processes.

10. The Government of Iraq should implement national laws and
prosecute all perpetrators under existing legislation and give
compensation and ongoing support to the families of assassinated

11. UNESCO should advocate for a campaign to protect education
personnel and the education system.

12. To permit continuity of schooling for IDP children, use testing
and referral systems or other temporary measures to permit students
who have lost school certificates to continue schooling;

13. Expanding access to schooling for IDP children by expanding
facilities, providing transport, offering teacher training to
members of the IDP community in areas that host large numbers of

14. Provide guidelines for short-term and emergency responses to
local actors (NGOs and community organizations) on measures to be
taken according to the minimum accepted standards;

15. Address, in coordination between the central Iraqi government
and the KRG government, factors that hinder school attendance:
discrimination, language barriers, lack of appropriate outreach to
IDP communities to inform them of services (redrafting);

16. UN agencies, NGOs, donors should help increase enrollment by
Iraqi refugee children by providing financial and material support
in the form of school uniforms, textbooks, school supplies, free
transportation, waiver of school fees/donations, and Conditional
Cash Transfers as applicable;

17. Donors, UN agencies, and host governments should continue to
help build the capacity and resources of the Ministries of Education
to address needs of refugee;

18. With the help of international partners, encourage and enable
Ministries of Education to address issues of certification including
cross-border examinations and accreditation systems;

19. UN agencies, NGOs and host governments should make a concerted
effort to create or strengthen child protection networks, mechanisms
and institutions, notably through in or order to:

- Raise awareness among teachers and the general public about the
pychosocial issues impacting Iraqi refugees;
- Provide training and support to teachers, counselors and community
religious leaders on appropriate responses with children;
- Provide family counseling and discussion/support groups;

20. International and national partners should broaden the means of
access to learning through e-learning and ICTs.


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