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18 March 2009 : Universal access to education - Statement by Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, at the General Assembly

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Guaranteeing universal access to education by 2015 is a common objective of the international community, both in the case of the realization of a "world fit for children," which the General Assembly promised to children of the world in 2002, and in the case of the millennium development goals.

In this perspective, France designated education as an area of aid concentration for two thirds of the countries with which it signed partnership agreements. On a multilateral level, France also contributes to the realization of Education for All through the European Development Fund, the World Bank funds designated to this sector, or UNESCO. France actively supports the "fast-track" initiative, the accelerated implementation of Education for All in developing countries, for which France announced an additional contribution of 50 million euros on September 25, 2008.

Nevertheless, we know that the lack of access to education in armed conflict is solely responsible for the situation of roughly half of the 75 million children today who still do not have access to schooling.

We wish to pay tribute notably to the actions of UNICEF, UNESCO, and international and local NGOs, directed towards allowing children the access to education even in the most difficult situations, such as refugee camps or camps for displaced persons or in order to ensure a prompt return to normal schooling within assistance and reconstruction efforts following natural disasters.

In this context, it is important to emphasize the particular importance that free access to education carries, without constraints or discrimination among children receiving humanitarian assistance, including that provided by international actors.

In situations of conflict, the question of increased technical and financial support for educational programs is indivisible from the parties’ assumption of responsibility. All too often, parties to armed conflict violate international humanitarian law. Through their actions - whether attacks against schools, schoolchildren, or their professors, whether recruitment operations in schools or their surroundings, or whether the utilization of the education system for propaganda and the incitement of hatred against each other - they destroy efforts aiming at allowing children to realize their right to education.

In partnership with UNICEF, France supported the development of the "Paris principles and guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups," in February 2007. The Paris principles fully recognize the role that education can play, both in the prevention of the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts, and in the rehabilitation of children formerly associated with armed forces or armed groups. More than 75 countries already subscribe to the principles, and we hope that the General Assembly, like the Security Council, will continue to contribute to their recognition and implementation by those involved.

France fully supports the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and her involvement with parties to conflicts to ensure better protection of children, including on the issue of respect for places of education like "zones of peace." We also think that the monitoring and reporting mechanism established by Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005), which rests on objective criteria excluding any kind of selectivity, constitutes a useful instrument for holding the parties to armed conflict accountable, including on their actions against the educational system and schoolchildren.

Finally, justice, whether in the framework of national, international, or mixed jurisdiction, has an important role to play in ensuring that those who attack schools or education are punished. It is therefore essential that the General Assembly continues to support the efforts of such jurisdictions, notably through the International Criminal Court, so that those responsible for violations against the rights of children are held accountable for their actions.

Thank you Mr. President./.

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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU