Shaikha Mouza Image Credit: AP

Manama: The billions of dollars spent on arms every year should be used instead to put every child in school and to reduce child mortality, Shaikha Mouza Nasser Al Misnad, wife of Qatar's Emir, has said.

The fervent education supporter also blasted those who attack education and impede access to it, saying that they are "enemies of civilisation".

"Education is conducive to democracy and peace because it has the potential to instill new values and behaviours, as well as help reduce economic, social and ethnic polarisation, Shaikha Mouza said.

"Therefore, it is a sad fact that billions of dollars are spent on arms by countries around the world every year. This money would have enabled those countries to put every child in school and to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015, fulfilling two of the Millennium Development Goals," she said at a meeting on the Central Role of Education in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Shaikha Mouza said that asking to stop wars or dreaming of a conflict free world may be "too much".

However, she insisted that "education demands security, safety, and sustainability and those who attack education and impede access to it are enemies of civilisation and they constitute an obstacle to the right of education".

"Education, while it has prominence on the global agenda, often falls off the priority list when it comes to the protection of education in times of conflict and emergency," she said.

"The report before us reaffirms my belief that the other MDGs cannot be met unless the Education for All goals is given top priority across all regions, including those torn by natural disasters and political conflicts. There can be no peace and prosperity without education," she said, quoted by Qatar News Agency (QNA).

According to Shaikha Mouza, quality primary education is a powerful force in achieving all of the other MDGs and studies demonstrate the connections between education and the achievement of goals in reducing poverty and child mortality, improving maternal health, preventing the spread of disease and ensuring environmental sustainability.

"There can be no peace and prosperity without education. Conflicts are a major threat to human security and to hard-won MDG goals. Years after a conflict has ended, large populations of refugees remain displaced, with limited employment, education opportunities and inadequate health services… Education is particularly important in times of armed conflict because it can provide a sense of normalcy in an environment of chaos," she said on Wednesday.

Shaikha Mouza praised the Right to Education in Emergency Situations, passed by the UN General Assembly in July 2010.

"Under this measure, and for the first time, governments explicitly commit to physically protecting educators and educational facilities, the indicators of our civilisation as I see them, at all levels, in times of conflict and disaster. This is an excellent beginning, but it is only a start," she said.