Today is about action, not just words - it is World Humanitarian Day. It is not a celebration. It is a much-needed recognition of those "who face danger and adversity in order to help others," a clear signal that there IS good in the world and a message to millions that life is precious.
And what better way to recognise those who help others in the most dire circumstances than to announce we will give priority to new and better international support so humanitarians can carry out their mission to provide every child with opportunity in some of the most trying circumstances.
Over the past several months, world leaders from countries and agencies across the globe have come together to find a solution to how we can better provide education to the millions of children caught up in humanitarian emergencies and crises.
Now a Global Humanitarian Platform and Fund for Education in Emergencies is to be set up in a unique coalition of partners ranging from Anthony Lake of UNICEF, António Gutteres of UNHCR, Julia Gillard of the Global Partnership for Education and with development partners such as Norway, the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, the European Union, Dubai Cares and representatives from other countries, including South Sudan, Nepal and Lebanon.
It is clear why we have to act with urgency: World Humanitarian Day will last just 24 hours. A total of 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. As UN Special Envoy for Global Education, I want you to consider one other statistic and care about it enough to do something. If we all spend just ONE of those precious seconds thinking about each and every displaced boy and girl on the planet it would take all of us until early July 2016 to have covered every one of them.
There are 30million of these young souls. Today, seven years after the General Assembly designated August 19 to coincide with the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, we face a humanitarian crisis that is wider broader and deeper than at any time since the Second World War.
It is typified not just by the 30million displaced and refugee children, but a further 30 million adults as well, all in troubled regions around the world. From Nepal to South Sudan, Syria to Iraq, Palestine to the DRC people have been forced to leave their homes in fear.
Take Syria for example, where nearly 3million children have been forced out of school, nearly 2million banished from their homes to neighbouring countries, most likely for their entire school careers. Having enjoyed free, nearly universal education in Syria until the beginning of the crisis, Syrian children are now enrolled at rates as low as 6% in some areas, lower than those in Somalia. We are failing not because there are no teachers and no schools ready to go double shift to accommodate the refugees, but because there is no money.
For the children, what is even more tragic is that they may spend all of their school years away from their homes, without the ability to prepare for the future because of their lack of education.
We owe them at least a fleeting thought but taking an action would make a difference. They are worth it. For how are these young people expected to build a life for themselves without the basic skills of reading, writing and maths? How can they hope for a better world if we do not give them the ability to create it?
Despite all our efforts over the past 15 years, 59million children are not going to school today and half of them are in conflict zones or where regimes have broken down. Provision for schooling in crisis situations falls through the net because humanitarian funds have to be focused on food and shelter. Less than 2% of all humanitarian aid currently goes towards education.
Eglantyne Jebb, the founder of the humanitarian organisation Save The Children, once noted that the only international language that the world understands is the cry of a child. But it seems that the world has become deaf. What other reason can there be when children are sold off daily into marriage forced down mines or are imprisoned in domestic service? Little is being done to help them because of what can only be described as fatigue.
The head of UNRWA reported that they are now millions of dollars short in providing for Palestinian refugee children. In a few weeks' time more than 450,000 young people will not be able to start the new school year.
The return to school this autumn means nothing to millions more children who will never go to school or cannot return to school because the resources are not available. Why is the need urgent? Because homeless children are being trafficked, sold into slavery by ruthless adults because they are displaced and unaccounted for. If we do not do everything in our power to keep schools running these children are vulnerable to live a life worse than the horror they have escaped from.
So where does the funding come from when hundreds of thousands of Syrians seek refuge in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon? Where do we turn when one million children need their schools rebuilt in Nepal urgently rebuilt in Nepal?
In this dark and dangerous world there are millions who still care. Humanitarians. And we now have to mobilise them first by establishing a humanitarian platform and fund for education, and then by persuading governments, companies, foundations and individuals to contribute to these efforts. And if we succeed, perhaps in the future every day will be World Humanitarian Day and we won't need to give it a name.Suggest a correction