The United Arab Emirates would like to thank you for organizing this open debate on children and armed conflict, and wishes also to thank Special Representative Virginia Gamba and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore for their insightful briefings today.
The United Arab Emirates takes this opportunity to renew its commitment to the implementation of Security Council resolutions aimed at mitigating the impact of armed conflict on children. Today we want to specifically underline the importance of resolution 1998 (2011), which condemned attacks against schools or hospitals as violations of applicable international law. The resolution also requested the Secretary-General to include in the annexes to his reports on children and armed conflict those parties to armed conflict that engage, in contravention of applicable international law in recurrent attacks on schools and in recurrent attacks or threats of attacks against protected persons in relation to schools in situations of armed conflict.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical role that schools and teachers play around the word, but this is even more important for children living in conflict situations. Schools are not only civilian objects that should be protected under international humanitarian law. They are also critical for communities torn apart by conflict, and they are the places where children can look towards the future with the hope of learning skills and pursuing new opportunities.
For a long time, the UAE has prioritized protecting education as a critical lever to uplift entire communities. Since 2011, the UAE had donated $1.55 billion in support of education projects globally, including US$284.4 million in crisis-affected areas. The UAE has worked with UNICEF and other partners to support the education of 20 million children in 59 countries since 2017, including the rebuilding of 16 schools in Mosul and Baghdad in the last year alone.
As discussed in June, the UAE is deeply concerned by the high level of grave violations against children in 2019, and is alarmed by the high numbers of verified incidents of attacks against schools. Yesterday we commemorated the International Day to Protect Education from Attack, but much remains to be done. Schools continue to be targeted, putting the lives of teachers and students at risk. Terrorist and non-state armed groups often attack schools and teachers to instil fear in the population and spread their extremist ideology. These groups attack schools to disrupt the education system, forcibly recruit children, prevent the teaching of critical concepts such as tolerance and co-existence and undermine the education of girls. The perpetrators of such grave violations should be held accountable.
This open debate is an opportunity to address why despite the existence of a normative framework, attacks and threats of attacks against schools are growing at an alarming rate. In this regard, the UAE urges member states to recommit to the implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions. In coordination with other partners of the Coalition to support legitimacy in Yemen, the UAE has taken concrete measures to support the implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions. These include the establishment of a Child Protection Unit and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
In conclusion, the UAE reiterates its continued commitment to upholding the rights of children around the world, particularly those in conflict situations. This includes protecting schools and preventing grave violations, as well as protecting the right to education and the need to provide opportunities for fulfilment and growth to the most vulnerable. At the United Nations and beyond, the UAE will continue to do its part.