education

headerright“Frontiers of Children’s Rights” is the title of this year’s 2d annual summer course on international children’s rights, to be held July 7 to 11, 2014, in the Dutch cities of Leiden and The Hague. Sponsoring the course are Leiden Law School and its Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies. (Prior post.)

Organizers again this year are 2 Leiden Law experts: Dr. Ton Liefaard, who holds the UNICEF chair, and Dr. Julia Sloth-Nielsen, Professor of Children’s Rights in the Developing World. Other academics and practitioners in the field will round out the faculty for the week-long program, which will include a visit to the International Criminal Court. (By way of example, last year’s full program is here.)

Deadline for application is May 1. Details on the course, fees, and scholarship opportunities here.

cchsLocals here in Athens, Georgia, are abuzz with a couple paragraphs in the remarks on education that President Barack Obama delivered yesterday at a College Opportunity Summit in Washington, D.C.

Obama underscored the uneven playing field on which high schoolers compete for college admission, recalling: “[W]hen I was taking the SAT I just barely remembered to bring a pencil.  I mean, that’s how much preparation I did.” He continued:

‘So we’ve got a young man here today named Lawrence Harris who knows this better than most. Lawrence went to the University of Georgia, and like a lot of first-generation college students it wasn’t easy for him. He had to take remedial classes. He had to work two part-time jobs to make ends meet. At one point, he had to leave school for a year while he helped support his mom and his baby brother. Those are the kinds of just day-to-day challenges that a lot of these young people with enormous talent are having to overcome. Now, he stuck with it. He graduated.

‘But now he’s giving back. He’s made it his mission to help other young people like him graduate, as a college advisor at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Georgia. And today the National College Advising Corps, the program that placed Lawrence in Clarke Central, is announcing plans to add 129 more advisors who will serve more than 80,000 students over the next three years.’

News of the shout-out traveled fast from D.C. to Clarke Central, high school to my son and more than 1,400 others. CCHS’ diverse student body comprises blacks (57%), whites (22%), Latinos (17%), Asians (2%), and multiracial children (2%). (image credit) Nearly 2/3 of the students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Programs, like the award-winning Odyssey on-line-and-in-print magazine, are exemplary. The school’s overall graduation rate is climbing, thanks to the students themselves and to the support of their community and teachers – not to mention advisors like the one Obama singled out.

icrcProfs looking to learn more about the laws regulating war are encouraged to take part in the annual Teaching International Humanitarian Law Workshop (prior posts here and here).

This year’s workshop will be held February 7-8, 2014, at Brigham Young University Law School in Provo, Utah, home institution of my colleague, Professor Eric Talbot Jensen. BYU joins the International Committee of the Red Cross in cosponsoring. Organizers write:

 The Workshop is targeted at law professors interested in teaching an IHL (otherwise known as the Law of Armed Conflict) course for the first time, integrating IHL modules into their current courses and/or rethinking their current teaching of this important subject. The Workshop provides an opportunity for law faculty to think creatively about teaching IHL, network with others, exchange ideas, and expand teaching of these topics.

Details and registration here.

ibc_chad_7093-1Looking forward to this week’s exploration of issues related to children in and affected by armed conflict – the subject on which I have the honored of serving as a Special Adviser to Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. (My prior posts on this issue here.)

The occasion is a 2-day event entitled “Children and Armed Conflict: Strengthening Implementation of the UN’s Children and Armed Conflict Agenda,” cosponsored by the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination at New Jersey’s Princeton University and by the New York-based nongovernmental organization Watchlist on Children & Armed Conflict.

The program begins at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, December 12, 2013, with a public, plenary session – a panel discussion on “UN Efforts to End Grave Violations against Children in Conflict Situations.” Speaking will be:

► Ambassador Sylvie Lucas, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the United Nations and Chair of the Security Council Working Group for Children and Armed Conflict.

► Under Secretary-General Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

► Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière, formerly the Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations.  The first Chair of the Security Council Working Group for Children and Armed Conflict, de la Sablière is the author of a pivotal report on this subject.

Jo Becker, Advocacy Director of the Children’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch.

Then on Friday,  December 13, will be a closed workshop, at which representatives of states and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations (as well as academics like myself) will examine the issue of children and armed conflict. Particular emphasis will be placed on the monitoring and reporting process launched U.N. Security Council Resolution 1612 (2005) and succeeding resolutions, overseen by the Special Representative Zerrougui, and watchdogged by NGOs.

At the core of the U.N. process are efforts to combat the 6 Grave Violations, a half-dozen offenses against children deemed especially reprehensible. Commission of these offenses, by state and nonstate actors alike, may result in action within the U.N. framework. The 6 are: killing or maiming of children; recruitment or use of children as soldiers; sexual violence against children; attacks against schools or hospitals; denial of humanitarian access for children; and abduction of children. (credit for AP photo)

Classroom-destroyed-300x225Percolating into global consciousness is the armed conflict that’s ravaged the Central African Republic this past year. Fighting began last December, and in March rebels entered the capital, Bangui, and ousted the President who’d ruled for 10 years, François Bozizé. A transitional government eventually was put into place. But that has not eased fighting. Just yesterday, fighting was reported in the capital following the assassination of a judge and his aide.

Estimates that “more than 1.6 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance” – nearly a third of the country’s entire population – prompted  Louise Arbour, President of the International Crisis Group and formerly the top U.N. human rights official, last week to urge the Security Council to “take decisive action.”

As in many conflicts, the months of violence have taken a severe toll on children. Underscoring this is the image with which Foreign Policy‘s Peter Bouckaert began a recent report:

‘In the schoolrooms of the northern Central African Republic (CAR), the blackboards still show dates from late March — when Seleka rebels seized power in the country and a nightmare began.’

The statement jibed with an October report by UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund:

‘Seven out of 10 primary school students in the Central African Republic (CAR) have not returned to school since the conflict started in December 2012 …’

Blocking the return of children and their teachers to school: attacks, destruction, and occupation by armed groups. (credit for photo by Save the Children) Many families remain in camps like those that drew attention because of a visit by Mia Farrow, the actor who serves as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. (See the child’s drawing that Farrow posted here.)

Among the many offenses that Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court Prosecutor, denounced in an August statement was the recruitment of child soldiers – a crime that’s reportedly doubled in the last year.

And last week, concern focused on allegations of stepped-up killings of civilians, particularly children.

Much to be discussed during the Security Council’s scheduled consideration, later this month, of the crises in the country.

unesco‘And so UNESCO is in the midst of a budget crisis, and the USA is poised to lose a great deal of influence over an organization that runs Tsunami warning systems, teaches literacy to the same Afghan police officers that are being trained by American soldiers, runs education programs for girls around the world, and has conferred “World Heritage” status on 22 American monuments and sites.’

– Mark Leon Goldberg, in a UN Dispatch post on events earlier today in Paris: having refused to pay its dues since UNESCO admitted Palestine as a member state in 2011, the United States lost its voting rights in that body, formally known as the United Nations Economic Social and Cultural Organization. (credit for (c) UNESCO photo of Afghan schoolchildren)

Goldberg decried the federal  legislation that required the United States to become a UNESCO deadbeat. (See § 414(a) here and § 410 here.) And he worried what could happen, to the United States and to U.N. agencies with “more obvious connections to American security” (he named the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Health Organization, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons), if such agencies likewise were to admit Palestine to membership.

girlchildlogoEfforts to put an end to attacks on education receive high marks this week – especially today, the 2d annual International Day of the Girl Child, the theme for which is “Innovating for Girls’ Education.”

Just yesterday, in Resolution 2120 on Afghanistan, the U.N. Security Council focused on threats to education amid armed conflict:

Expressing its serious concern with the high number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, in particular women and children, the increasingly large majority of which are caused by Taliban, Al-Qaida and other afgviolent and extremist groups and illegal armed groups, condemning in the strongest terms the high number of attacks targeting schools, including their burning and forced closure, their use by armed groups, and the intimidation, abduction and killing of education personnel, particularly those attacks targeting girls’ education by armed groups including the Taliban ….’

It reiterated that concern in a later paragraph devoted to the harms children endure in armed conflict – a child-protection paragraph that is both welcome and new to the Council’s Afghanistan resolutions. (h/t David Koller of WatchList; credit for 2009 AP photo, above, of Afghan schoolgirl) Addressing matters outlined in the U.N. report on which I previously posted, the inclusion reflects a concerted effort by multiple U.N. entities – including the Council’s own Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict – and nongovernmental organizations – including those that form the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack.

fbThe education of children, particularly girls, is a goal that the International Criminal Court Prosecutor underscored in a statement she issued last year, on the 1st Day of the Girl Child. (photo credit) Speaking of her intention to continue to consider the experiences of children in and affected by armed conflict (since December, the mandate on which I have the honor of advising her), ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said:

‘The women of the future, the young girls of the world, should not be deprived of their fundamental human right to play and learn and enjoy being children.’

Giving eloquent voice to that thought earlier this week was 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai, victim of an assassination attempt a year ago, in her home region in Pakistan – an attempt made because she had blogged and spoken out in favor of girls’ education. She survived and has thrived as a forceful, global advocate for this worthy cause, as recognized by her new book and her receipt yesterday of the European Union’s Sakharov Prize malalafor Freedom of Thought. In a Daily Show interview Tuesday, she spoke of some of the world’s ills – war, repression, child labor – and then concluded:

‘Issues and problems are enormous. But the solution is one. And that is education.’