Address by Parliamentary Secretary Lois Brown – Education at the Margins: Reaching Children in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States

February 27, 2014 - Ottawa, Ontario

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Thank you for that kind introduction. Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman. 

I’m pleased to join you today on behalf of Minister Paradis, who sends his regrets for not being here. I would also like to recognize Diane Jacovella, Assistant Deputy Minister for Global Issues and Development, who will be moderating today’s panel.

And a special thanks to Aga Khan Foundation Canada and the Global Partnership for Education—two of our biggest partners in education, for co-hosting this event with us.

Developing countries have made significant progress toward achieving universal primary education. However, fragile states affected by conflict lag far behind other countries, and their children are paying the price.

Securing the future of children and youth is one of Canada’s development priorities. We see education as a way to foster peace and security, and to help stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty.

Nowhere is that truer or more crucial than it is in fragile states. Education for children is a basic building block that we cannot afford to ignore.

Canadahas a long-standing commitment to the Millennium Development goal to ensure that, by 2015, boys and girls alike will be able to complete their primary schooling. Our development programs have a particular focus on supporting access to quality basic education, and safe and secure schools.

We also want to ensure that children and youth who are living in emergency situations because of disasters and conflicts have access to the services they need—including education.

That is whyCanadasupports education in fragile states through the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, which is the lead international network in this field.

This network brings together key stakeholders to help countries transition from humanitarian assistance to development aid in the education field, among other goals.

It also allows long-term partners to compare their experiences, find new ways to work together and learn from each other’s innovative, best practices.

Earlier today, our Parliament had the honour to be addressed by His Highness the Aga Khan. Prime Minister Harper and His Highness signed a Protocol of Understanding committing both to regular, high-level consultations on a range of global and regional issues.

The Protocol further consolidates the cooperative relationship we have, also through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and Aga Khan Foundation Canada.

We are very excited about the potential this holds for a variety of global issues—including the promise it holds for better learning outcomes for children and youth.

Of course, we already have a number of educational projects we are collaborating on in other countries. InAfghanistan, for example, our girls’ education program covers the full continuum of education from early childhood development programs to supporting women in teacher training colleges.

Canadahas been among the top donors toAfghanistan, and education remains one ofCanada’s largest sectors of investment in the country. It accounts for 25 percent of our development budget there.

And our efforts there have paid dividends. Our education investments have led to a dramatic increase in the number of girls enrolled in schools across the country.

In 2001, less than a million children were enrolled in formal schools—and all of them were boys.

By 2013, 9.7 million children were enrolled in schools—and 40 percent were girls!

Looking at today’s topic of Education at the Margins—reaching children in fragile and conflict-affected states—it is clear to me that our success is based on working with experienced and knowledgeable partners like those who are present here.

Canadais also proud to be partners with the Global Partnership for Education, which works in 28 developing fragile states.

The Global Partnership helps to develop interim education plans in fragile states. This is a key step to offering children who are the most difficult to reach the opportunity to learn and develop.

Working through local partners, the Global Partnership is having a transformative effect on the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which recently developed the first interim education plan in more than a generation.

The Global Partnership is also helping to accelerate education funding to countries considered extremely fragile, such as Somalia and the Central African Republic, where its grants support teachers, children and school councils.

Canada has learned from progress achieved through initiatives like the G8 Muskoka Initiative for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health which is our government’s top development priority. We are effective when global will gets behind an idea—in this case, to save the lives of women and children and improve their health.

And now, we have an opportunity to focus attention around the refugee and displaced children ofSyria.

On January 7, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the UN Refugee Agency, Save the Children, World Vision and other non-governmental organization partners launched the “No Lost Generation” initiative. It calls for governments, aid agencies, and the general public to champion the children ofSyria.

Since conflict erupted inSyriain March 2011, an estimated 140,000 people have been killed, and more than eight million people have been driven from their homes—half of them children.

I am very moved by the goal of this initiative: to provide Syrian children—wherever they are—with the protective environment and learning opportunities they need to be able to reclaim their childhoods.

The vast majority—one million children—live in the surrounding countries ofLebanon,Jordan,Turkey,EgyptandIraq.

Nearly 8,000 of them are separated from their immediate families.

And the situation is even direr for more than three million displaced children living insideSyria.

On January 24, the Prime Minister announced an additional $50 million in humanitarian funding for education and child protection activities that support the “No Lost Generation” initiative.

We expect that through our partners we will be able to reach 660,000 children to help restore hope by protecting them and giving them an education.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development is working closely with UNICEF and NGO partners to ensure a coordinated approach between humanitarian and development activities in support of emergency education in Lebanon and Jordan.

I understand that today’s panel will explore how commitments from civil society, governments, and multilateral institutions can best reach children in fragile and conflict-affected states.

Canada’s role in supporting the “No Lost Generation” initiative will no doubt be part of that discussion, as we look for new ways to align our efforts.

I wish you a fruitful discussion and I look forward to hearing about the ideas that come out.

Thank you.