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Iraq, Education, and Children of Conflict [Rush Transcript; Federal News Service]

Speakers: Angelina Jolie, Co-Chair, Jolie-Pitt Foundation, Co-Chair, Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, Safaa El-Kogali, Senior Economist, Human Development Department, Middle East and North Africa Region, the World Bank, and George E. Rupp, President, International Rescue Committee
Presider: Gene B. Sperling, Director, Center for Universal Education, Council on Foreign Relations
April 8, 2008
Council on Foreign Relations

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Jolie1GENE SPERLING: I'd like to welcome everybody to the Center for Universal Education at the Council on Foreign Relations. The center was founded in 2002 with the goal of being a policy center and a major think thank in Washington, D.C. that focused explicitly on reaching universal basic education for the world's poorest children. And I think it's fair to say that in 2001 and 2002 and 2003, myself, our center, as others, were very highly focused on creating the global compact for education that would help realize the Education for All Goals, the Millennium Development Goals.

But I think what became very apparent and somewhat troubling to many of us is that focus is very much on, whether it's the Monterey Consensus or the Millennium Challenge Account or even the education Fast-track Initiative, very much focused on giving support for high-performing governments to get all of their children in school. And I think the tension that was there was that I think those of us who worked in education knew that if we were really serious about getting all children in school or a quality education, you couldn't just focus on children in high-performing developing governments.

So what became very apparent is that the children of conflict really fall through the cracks in two very basic ways. One, donor governments are less interested in supporting them because their governments are in conflict or fragile. And secondly, even where there is humanitarian assistance, it is often limited often legally to, quote, "lifesaving or emergency services" which are very important. But the fact is is that these children's education fall through the cracks both in terms of the larger development compact, and education is often last in line in the humanitarian or crisis situation.

As I think many of us feel, even if "lifesaving" was your restriction, was your requirement, I think most of us here would argue that education is, with a slightly broader perspective, absolutely lifesaving when you see the impact that it has, particularly for girls, on infant mortality, maternal mortality, the spread of HIV/AIDS. And so the center, we made a decision that we had to make a major focus of our work on children in conflict. It is estimated that as many as 39 million children are out of school who are in either conflict or post-conflict situations around the world.

So over a year ago, we started something which we now call the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict. And it was co-founded by myself and one of our panelists Angelina Jolie. And it was launched at the Clinton Global Initiative, and it really has two objectives. One was to really highlight the tremendous work that is being done by so many NGOs, U.N. agencies, including UNHCR, UNICEF and others on the ground, and to make it easy for not only companies and foundations but individuals as well to contribute in their own way.

And so as part of the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, today is the first day we've put up our new website. Everybody's always doing website advertisements. I guess I've never done one before. Ours -- which is amazing that this name was still available -- (laughter) -- but educationpartnership.org.

(Off mike commentary.)

Yeah. Others who have started a website are amazed, too. (Laughter.)

You know, I want to thank most of all my co-founder and co-chair, Angelina Jolie, but also, you know, Hewlett Foundation, Children's Investment Fund Foundation, Boeing, Unbound Philanthropy for giving us the support to get this off the ground.

So that part of the work is about identifying, working with ninemillion.org, UNHCR. We have projects from the IRC on the website, who is represented today.

But the other half of the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict is shining a spotlight on the policy analysis in the countries that are dealing with conflict and making sure that in those countries the education of children is not falling through the cracks. Our policy, we've worked on how to include children of conflict in the global architecture, how to make sure there's greater trust in giving money in these situations. But we also want to focus on particular countries.

Angelina and I hosted in New York last month the minister of Education from Rwanda to talk about a post-conflict situation. Today we are obviously talking about a situation which is significant, present conflict, which is Iraq. And you know, if you look at the name of our panel today, it's always a little hard getting the name. We say children of conflict because you can't really just say displaced because you have children affected by conflict in their homes, as we'll discuss, as you'll hear from the panelists the different context of conflict.

But I will say the following. You know, there's the first line in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, every family is happy in the same way, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own unique way. Well, I would say education and children of conflict is a mix. Every country has its own very distinctive mix and history and elements of conflict. And they are often very, very complex. In Iraq, some of the children who seem to be in an easier situation who are displaced to Kurdistan, on the other hand, have huge language barriers, and that becomes their barrier to education. We'll talk about the specifics there and what's unique in the Iraq situation.

But it is also worth knowing that in many of these situations, there is much that is similar, and you do see similar trends. As you'll see in Iraq, and it's true other places, where you have a rise in fundamentalism, where you have a rise in poverty and when you have a rise in violence, always girls lose out more than boys. And we're seeing this in Iraq today. And we'll discuss.

Always, when you have children in host countries, in foreign countries, there are tensions between how to provide education for the children who are refugees without creating bitterness and resentment from children in the host country in terms of how they are being felt. There is always tensions about how to provide the emergency relief you need right now for children versus the structures that you need to build for the country to come back and bring education back when peace and stability is restored.

And finally, I'll just say that it is always the case that every story is a mix of tremendous heartbreak and tremendous resilience. And I think you will also see that.

I would love to tell you that what you will hear today is absolutely the hardest, rock-solid numbers that never disagree. But that's just not the case usually in conflict. If you look through everything, you will see many trends, you'll see many estimates. But I can tell you in advance, completely accurate information is always a scarcity.

I'd like to thank the people who are on the ground in Amman, Jordan, the UNICEF cluster, UNHCR, UNSCO who, while not here today, have been very helpful in briefing us, providing information. I talked to them this morning, and I said, how would you tell me to describe it to people today on April 8th? They said, you should describe it that the situation of education within Iraq is an emergency and a jigsaw puzzle. And we'll talk more about that.

If there was a kind of a mantra perhaps for Angelina and I in starting the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, it's a passage from David Eggers' book "What is the What" where the lost boys are in a refugee camp. And they're going to the first day of school, and the teacher says, "Many of you longer have mothers, you have lost your fathers, but you have education. Here, if you are smart enough to accept it, you will be educated. Education will be your mother. Education will be your father. When your older brothers fight this war with guns, when the bullets stop, you will fight the next war with your pens."

With that, I would like to introduce our three panelists today, if I can find their information.

Well, the first is -- help me here. (Laughter.)

(Off mike commentary.)

I know you so well but, you know, I will start with Angelina who I have introduced more than a couple of times. First of all, I should mention that the Jolie-Pitt Foundation is also one of the supporters of this project. What I would say that many of you -- I would just emphasize, and I think I've said this every time I've introduced her, is that many people talk the talk and fewer others walk the walk. I think it's hard to pick any one thing that says as much about Angelina Jolie is that she has, in the last seven years, done over 30 trips to refugee camps and conflict organizations. Many of you work in refugee organizations and know that 30 trips or less, seven years is pretty significant travel if this is your full-time occupation. It's an amazing amount of travel if this is not even your day job. So it's not a surprise that Angelina has also been to Iraq twice in the last year and can offer a bit of firsthand value.

Obviously, her most important thing beyond being the United Nations goodwill ambassador of refugees is being the co-chair of the Education Partnership for Children in Conflict and, I think Lisa Shields told me I should mention, a term member at Council in Foreign Relations. (Laughter.)

Safaa El-Kogali is the senior economist for human development for the Mid East and North Africa Region at the World Bank. She serves as the task team leader for the World Bank's Iraq Education Program. As she told me on the phone when we were first talking about it, as a Sudanese national, the issue of education and conflict is not a new area for her. But she has worked in over 15 countries from Sudan to Syria to Yemen. She started her education in Sudan and continued it in the United States and the U.K.

She will not be accused of dodging tough assignments. She was given the Iraq assignment only in the last year, and she's taken on what will certainly be one of the most, I'm sure, challenging assignments of hers or any person who works in development's career.

George Rupp is the president of the International Rescue Committee, or IRC, and he also, really very importantly for us here, started, brought together the IRC's Commission on Iraqi Refugees and really took a very prominent group to Syria and Jordan for a very firsthand account of what's happening, not only in education but on the ground there. I've read the entire report. I strongly recommend it to anyone. It is compelling.

I first met him when he was President Rupp, the president of Columbia College. I was still in the White House, and we were looking for somebody to step up and say they wanted to see their college do more to reach out to poor kids in their own backyard at early ages. And President Rupp was the first major college president who really just right off the bat said that he wanted to take a lead in that. So he has shown his commitment both to poor children in his own backyard and in backyards of very foreign and often conflict-oriented places.

So with that, I will turn the floor over to my co-chair, Angelina Jolie.

Jolie2ANGELINA JOLIE: First of all, thank you all for being here. This is a very big day for us. We were all talking backstage about what a great opportunity it is for all of us that you're here and allowing us to speak about these children and to have this day for these children.

It is a fact that the best way to heal children in conflict and their trauma is to focus their minds on their future and give them an education. It's also a fact that an educated population is the best guarantee for a stable and prosperous future.

I'm not saying something that everybody in this room doesn't already know. It's common sense. And yet, education is still not enough of a priority for the international community. Appeals are not met, and some government programs still have no education mandate at all.

We're here to talk about the children of Iraq. But first, I just wanted to say a few words about the children we're talking about, children of conflict and who they are. These are children living in refugee camps where the average stay now in a camp before returning home is 17 years, children who are refugees and not living in camps, like Syria, Jordan. We're also talking about children who are internally displaced inside their countries, like Colombia, Darfur, and children who remain living in areas of ongoing conflict, like Congo, Iraq. We are also talking about the children who are repatriating to their home countries, those who are returning to areas that are bombed or there are land mines scattered on the grounds, like Cambodia was, like Afghanistan is today.

As Gene said, there are tens of millions of these children in conflict. And I've had the privilege of meeting with many of them. And they are inspiring, and they're strong, and I know what they could do with a great education. And I also have seen their life without education. I have met these kids who have witnessed their friends and families killed, have lost their homes and have nothing to do but sit idle in a camp and relive it all in their minds. They have nothing else to do.

I've also seen kids who are displaced and living on the streets. I've watched them pick through garbage all day for a few cents for their recycling. Most of those kids have scars on their faces because there are these horrible bugs in the garbage. It's a horrible situation. I've met children who have turned to prostituting themselves, who are susceptible to trafficking.

The point is every child has a right to an education. And conflict is not an excuse for us to ignore that right. If anything, it is THE time that they need it the most. It helps them gain a sense of normalcy. It helps them with their psychological and physical health. We know that infants are less likely to die at birth if their mothers have been educated. We know that a 17-year-old girl in school can be as much as six times less likely to contract HIV and AIDS than her out-of-school peers.

Education gives them hope. It gives them confidence in the future. They feel they have a future. And these kids, they'll sit under a tree writing in the dirt because they have no pens and no supplies. And they'll sit in 100-degree temperature just to hear a teacher speak. They are absolutely the most-committed students in the world. And they are the future of their countries, so they are the best investment we can make.

And that is certainly true for Iraq where over 4 million people are displaced from this conflict. There are about 50 percent of them are children. And the millions also living inside the war zone that are not displaced, they have little or no aid, little or no access to education.

Iraq has a history of high-quality education system. So these parents and this group, in particular, they're very aware of what they've lost. When I visited refugees in Syria and displaced families in Iraq, the first question I always ask is, what are you most concerned about? What are you worried about? And I swear this is true. The first family I met was a family of 13. They were living in this tiny, little, dirty room and were about -- they had, I think, three months left of rent. One of them found a job. It was hot. There were babies. There was the grandparents there. It was a horrible situation. They were hungry. They were dirty. They were tired. And they said, we'd like to know about getting our kids into school.

And one mother even said, and I wrote this down, she said, to survive is nothing if you can't be something or do something with your life. And so this population that we're talking about, this population in need is the future of Iraq. And so to reach them now, to help them deal with their trauma and to help them refocus their minds on a possible future should absolutely be one of our highest priorities.

The children we're talking about today, all of them, we need these kids. We, the international community, we need them to grow up and be doctors and lawyers and engineers and teachers because we need them to rebuild their countries, to stabilize their countries and to eventually lead their countries one day. So I ask you not to think of them as tens of millions of needy kids but this great force of tens of millions strong that, with support, will do amazing things.

We are not here today with a simple solution because there's none. But we are here to discuss the complexities of the situation and see if we can find better solutions. Addressing education for children in conflict is very, very difficult. I've been shocked as I've learned about it and confronted all these different obstacles and thinking at first this is going to be easy.

But for example, the kids we're talking about, many of them, they are in areas where teachers and schools are actual targets. In Liberia, 80 percent of the schools were destroyed during the war. These children are also traumatized. One in every five Iraqi registered in Syria is registered as a victim of torture or extreme violence. There was also a study done that found that, not surprisingly, 92 percent of the children in Iraq had learning impediments due to a climate of fear. Schools are overcrowded and some schools are used for internally displaced communities to live in.

And some of the children we're talking about, it's almost impossible to get to them because there are bombs and bullets flying over their head as we speak. So how do we break through? There are many ways. There are people here you'll hear from who are brave and committed, and there are many people on the ground doing great work. But it is still, for all their efforts, a very tiny drop in the bucket.

So that is why we're here today, and I look forward to our discussion and finding better ways to find solutions and work together to help those kids. So thank you, again, for coming.

SPERLING: Safaa.

SAFAA EL-KOGALI: Thank you very much. I'm very honored and privileged to be here today and in the company of such distinguished guests, Angelina and George, and all of the audience.

I wanted to start with a poem from a 12-year-old girl from the Sudan where I'm from. Disaster, slaughters and wars; broken houses, shattered windows and doors; bodies cover the ground, ravens fill the sky; blood splattered around, everywhere children cry. Crossing hot desert lands and endless dark seas because their homes no longer stand, these are the refugees. The tearful eyes look up to the sky demanding when, not asking why.

That 12-year-old was me. And I thought I would share this poem with you knowing that I'm in the presence of Ms. Jolie to get some attention to the presentation that I was going to make. (Laughter.)

I will just give you a brief background of why I am here today and then tell you a little bit about the socioeconomic context in Iraq. I will share with you some numbers. And as Gene said, they're not perfect. And I will let you know a little bit about what we're doing in the education sector in Iraq.

The bank is not working directly with refugees and displaced children, but we are working with children in conflict. And I just wanted to give you a personal background on that. I saw new refugees as a child being from Sudan. Sudan was the host to a lot of refugees from neighboring countries in Africa. I saw them as youth, and I saw them as an adult living in Kenya and in Tanzania with Somalian and Rwandese refugees. I've seen what they've gone through. I've experienced it. I've lived amongst them but not as a refugee.

The prism through which I look at life has been shaped, to some extent, by the refugees who were around me. I see them in you, and I see them in me, and I think one difference that puts me here today speaking to you, I'm not in a refugee camp in Darfur, is education. And so this means a lot to me to be part of this panel today.

I will start the discussion on Iraq a little bit with just one quote from Confucius. And he says, "If one loves humanness but does not love learning, the consequence of this is folly. If one loves courage but does not love learning, the consequence of this is rebelliousness. If one loves strength but does not love learning, the consequence of this is violence." I think the people of Iraq love learning, and we need to help them have that opportunity.

In terms of what we see today in Iraq in a general socioeconomic context, this is a country, as most of you know, has been going through almost 25 years of neglect and degradation with their infrastructure completely destroyed and social services and the environment. Iraq, at one point, has attained middle-income-country status in the '70s with multiple human and natural resources. But successive wars and sanctions took their toll on the 29 million inhabitants of Iraq.

Income per capita, which was $3,600 in the early 1980s, dropped to almost $500 in 2003. Today it moved up again, and we have income per capita has reached 2,129 (dollars), a latest estimate in 2007. However, the issues are still there with the security situation, and children are mostly affected by that.

I wanted to share with you some of the numbers we have in terms of internally displaced and refugees. And they may be different from numbers you've heard before and you will hear after. But since February 2006 until November 2007, there have been over 1.2 million Iraqis internally displaced and over 1.5 million refugees fleeing across the border mainly to Jordan and Syria. A total estimate up to March 2008 is there are 2.5 million IDPs, and this is only surpassed by the size of IDPs in Colombia and in the Sudan.

This increase and influx, of course, poses a heavy burden on services in both Iraq and in the host countries. However, we hear that with the decline in violence towards the end of 2007 that there are early estimates showing there's a slight drop in the number of displaced persons. And this is positive. Nevertheless, the security situation remains very serious and continues to have a significant impact on the economy and on the society.

Iraq's statistic agency estimates that 43 percent of the population today lives on less than $1 a day with much of the poverty due to the high rate of unemployment. Iraqis still report that the lack of security, the poor delivery of services and unemployment are the most important factors that impact their daily lives.

I'm happy to note that despite the lack of data today that the World Bank has financed a household survey, and the results will be coming out soon. And this would be the first time that we would have data on Iraq that will help us assess the situation. And a poverty assessment will be conducted using this data.

Now I turn to the education sector in Iraq. And I looked at it in terms of three periods. There's a golden period, there's the decline years and then there's the crisis years. And the golden years were starting in the '70s until mid '80s when education was available free for all. The education system was one of the best in the region. And by 1984, the gross enrollment rates were over 100 percent. There was almost complete gender parity, boys and girls attended equally. Illiteracy among adults ages 15 to 45 was less than 10 percent. And dropout and repetition was the lowest in the region.

The Iraqi government spent 6 percent of its GNP and 20 percent of its total budget on education at that time. And the average cost per student was $620.

Starting in 1984 until 1989, with war with Iran and the diversion of public funding to military spending -- (inaudible) -- budget began to -- (inaudible).

(Audio difficulties.)

Mike -- (inaudible). Okay. Okay?

Prices here -- (inaudible) -- starting in 1990 were -- (inaudible). At that point, the share of -- (inaudible) -- to 3.3 percent in 2003. Their education constituted only 8 percent of the total government budget, 20 percent initial -- (inaudible). (Inaudible) -- per student dropped from $620 to only $47. Teacher salaries dropped as well.

(Off mike commentary.)

They got it, okay. Okay.

And gross enrollment also dropped. The gender gap started widening. Less and less girls were going to school. The dropout rate increased, reaching 20 percent but almost twice as high for girls than it is for boys. And the repetition rate reached 15 percent, reflecting poor quality and lack of resources.

The challenges that the education system faced can be classified into three. There were inherited challenges given the insufficient supply and poor conditions of schools that had not been maintained over long periods of time. Currently, the minister of Education is reporting a gap of 4,000 schools, which is resulting in some of the schools having double and triple shifts. So children effectively have three to four hours of learning time.

There are lots of pressures at the secondary level given the investments at the primary level, and the children are moving to the secondary level, and there aren't enough schools at that level. About 70 percent of the schools lack toilets and clean water. Almost 1,000 of the schools were built from mud, straw or tents. There are no labs, very limited books and libraries and equipment completely deteriorated, the curriculum is outdated, teacher training non-existent, staff absenteeism and the administration has its capacity limitations. This was the status in 2003 when the first assessment was conducted jointly with the United Nations and the World Bank.

Since 2003, terrorist attacks and sectarian conflict further destabilized the education system. Two thousand seven hundred and fifty-one schools were heavily damaged and required total rehabilitation. Two thousand four hundred experienced looting and damage. Schools in what was referred to as the hot areas were forced to close for extended periods of time. And the education personnel were targeted or attacked. In fact, we go regularly to Amman, Jordan to meet with staff from the Ministry of Education, and they casually would speak about their colleagues who were shot or killed. It's a daily event that they know of, they're walking to school or being in a school.

A third challenge that is facing the education system in Iraq is the population displacement. Given the security situation, teachers and students have to continuously move and sometimes in opposite directions. So you have teachers moving towards one area, children moving towards another area. So you find some schools where there are more teachers than needed, other schools less teachers than needed.

Some of the estimates we received from the Ministry of Education state that 320,000 students are displaced. About 65 percent of them are boys. That's because girls tend to drop out. About 20,000 teachers are displaced. And these patterns, as I mentioned, vary.

However, there's a positive story as well, a story of resilience and hope among the Iraqis that despite three wars and a decade of economic blockade, the education system continued to function and children continued to go to school. Currently, 3,600 schools have been rehabilitated, 120,000 teachers recruited. There is a focus on girls' education by the ministry. There are attempts to have curriculum reformed and provision of learning resources. And there are also attempts to have security provision in schools to try and protect the children while they're at school.

We at the World Bank have started, in 2003, with the international community and through the international compact with Iraq to provide support and basic social services. The International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq, which was set up to help donors channel resources and coordinate support for reconstruction and development, assigned two trust funds, one administered by the World Bank and one by the United Nations.

World Bank Iraq Trust Fund finances 16 grants totaling to about $437 million, which commits nearly all donor deposits, which is 455 million (dollars). The closing date for this trust fund has been extended to the end of December 2010 to allow time for all the projects to be completed. The bank's main objective is to help Iraq build efficient, inclusive, transparent and accountable institutions as needed for stability, good governance and sustainable economic prosperity.

Our assistance is guided by an Interim Strategy Note, and the second Strategy Note was presented and endorsed by our board of directors in 2005, and we're currently working on the third Interim Strategy Note.

Almost all of our projects are implemented by the government of Iraq, by the different ministries. This minimizes security costs, but it also allows for building capacity. It creates employment and local ownership. In November 2005, the first World Bank group loan in over 20 years was approved for Iraq, and it was in the education sector, the Third Emergency Education Project for the amount of $100 million.

We currently have three ongoing projects, two trust-funded projects in addition to the International Development Association project for the $100 million. We have a textbook project, Emergency Textbook Provision, which closed and puts forth the amount of $40 million. It became effective in May 2004, and it closed in December 2006. This was the first project in Iraq funded by the World Bank since the 1970s. And despite an ambitious implementation scheduled for the project and significant risks to development outcomes due to the instability within the country and a fragile education sector, in fact we identify 26 risks with this project, it succeeded with above-satisfactory results and became a model for implementation arrangements for subsequent projects.

The book provided the printing of 13.5 million additional textbooks. The project exceeded its main development objectives in financing the printing and distribution of more than 82 million textbooks, 16 percent above target. Schools were kept open and operating, and primary and secondary students received the necessary education material they needed. Offensive material was removed from the textbooks before their printing. And the capacity of the ministry was enhanced through workshops.

I will leave the details on the other projects. I'll just give you their amounts and their names, and should you have questions, I would be happy to answer them. We have ongoing an Emergency School Construction and Rehabilitation Project currently for $60 million that's ongoing. And there is an additional financing focusing on marshland areas for $6 million.

And then the $100 million for the Third Emergency Education Project. These projects focus mainly on school construction because this is what the government of Iraq has identified as needed. We try very much to work with them in terms of capacity-building activities because we believe that if you don't have the right institutions and the right capacity, once these projects are over, the schools will need to be rehabilitated at some point. And if you don't build the necessary planning capacity, you will not be able to continue.

Finally, I wanted to also mention a very exciting activity we had this February where we invited all ministries of Education in Iraq in the Kurdish region and in the central government to come to a strategy workshop to develop one national education strategy in Iraq. And we've had representatives from all four ministries for the first time in one room for three days. We closed them up in the Dead Sea, so really they had no choice but to get to know each other and know us. (Scattered laughter.)

And we asked them to fully run this workshop. We've only given the guidelines, but they had to tell us what they want to achieve and how they want to achieve it, and we could support them in that. It was very successful. They were all excited. Some of them met for the very first time although they've been in the same sector for 20-plus years. So we're very proud to have given the space for them to come and meet together.

So in concluding remarks, I wanted to say, as Angelina had said, the bank's contribution is only a drop. The needs of the children of Iraq are great, and they'll continue to grow. That need can be filled by people like you and me in pushing for greater attention to the plight of children in conflict through our institutions, through our governments or through our individual efforts.

Sharing the information and knowledge and shedding light on these needs, showing results of the efforts undertaken are all ways that we can support the children of Iraq. I know these needs can be met. And the question is not whether people like you and me can help solve these problems. The question is whether people like you and me have the will to get it done, perhaps because we realize but for the grace of God these children are us.

From the refugee perspective, they no longer why but when. When, they ask, will people like you and me will enough to make a difference in where they are, whether or not we had anything to do with why they are where they are. And to paraphrase Margaret Mead, it only takes a handful of responsible people to change the world. It might even take less to make a difference for the children of Iraq. Thank you.

SPERLING: George, we've just heard a lot about many of the situations in Iraq. And I know you've just gotten back from both Syria and Jordan, so we'd love to hear from you about those children as well.

Jolie3GEORGE RUPP: Thank you, Gene. I'm very pleased to be here. And I thank the Center for Universal Education and the Educational Partnership for Children in Conflict for hosting this event.

Gene and Angie and Safaa have all talked about, in their stage-setting remarks, about conflict and a whole range of other areas. And I will resist the temptation to talk about those. But I should say that the International Rescue Committee has programs in every one that was mentioned. So we have large programs in Sudan, Afghanistan, Congo, Liberia. And I would love to tell you about those at some point, but I will not take this occasion to do that.

Our core mission is to go to conflict zones and work with people to rebuild their lives. And that's also what we're doing in Iraq and in Jordan and in Syria.

As Gene mentioned, I've just returned from a visit to Jordan and Syria with a very distinguished International Rescue Committee delegation. We met with President Bashar al-Asaad and other government officials in Syria, Jordan and from Iraq and also with U.N. officials and U.S. government officials. We also spent considerable time talking with and, more important, hearing from the refugees themselves.

You heard a lot of numbers, but whether we're referring to the 2 (million) to 2.5 million people who are internal refugees within Iraq or the roughly 2 million who have fled to neighboring countries, the situation of Iraqi refugees is deplorable. It's especially deplorable if we contrast it with the data from the golden era that Safaa has just described for us.

We met with these refugees, many of whom had been middle class and educated citizens back in Iraq. We met with them in cold, crowded rooms in the poorest sections of Amman and Damascus where they are now concentrated. Many, virtually all, had lost loved ones to the fighting. They themselves had experienced extreme personal violence, torture, rape and other forms of violence and virtually without exception were deeply traumatized. Even those who fled with some personal savings were no longer able to afford rent, heat, food, medical care. They're not allowed to work and all too often as a result have resorted to prostitution or illegal child labor in order to make ends meet.

Too many feel that their future and the future of their children are hopeless. Among families under duress -- and my experience in visiting our programs around the world, especially in families composed only of mothers and their children -- education is a special preoccupation. Both of my colleagues have described situations in which refugees are asked what they want. And even when they have virtually nothing and are in desperate straits, education for their children so there's a future is right at the top of the list.

To their great credit, Jordan and Syria have stretched their limited resources to attempt to include Iraqi refugee children in their already-overcrowded schools. The danger of that, of course, is that there is resentment. And so it is crucial that all of our programs include the local population as well as Iraqi refugees because these refugees are not in camps, as a couple of my colleagues have said, but they're in with and under those poorest citizens of the countries in which they have taken refuge.

As an example of the efforts that governments are making, Syria is exemplary. It has included some 50,000 Iraqi children in Syrian schools. But that leaves at least another 200,000 who are not in schools facing, therefore, the kind of bleak future that comes if children are not educated. Similar limitations of access to education are evident in Jordan and in those areas of Iraq with the largest populations of internal refugees.

In our responses to the dire circumstances of Iraqi refugees, the International Rescue Committee has focused attention, energy and resources on addressing these core educational needs. Inside Iraq we have built additional classrooms and schools in Arbil, for example, so that there can be Arabic language instruction for pupils who don't speak Kurdish. And we're working with local partners to expand these programs into other regions, including Baghdad and southern Iraq.

In Jordan, we're working with local partners to provide educational opportunity to thousands of Iraqi children in east Amman. In Syria, we're working with the U.N. High Commission for Refugees to expand the capacity of the educational system. And we are in discussions with the Syrian Ministry of Education to scale-up this initiative to begin to address the problems of the very large numbers of so-far unschooled Iraqi refugees.

While these programs are promising, much more must be done in overall humanitarian aid and specifically in education. Iraqi refugees, whether inside or outside of Iraq face three alternatives -- return, remain or resettle. None is a good option. The odds of their being accepted for resettlement are very long, shamefully long in the case of the United States given our responsibility for driving so many Iraqis outside of their country.

Even though the numbers are small, clearly major efforts need to be invested in increasing those who will not be able to return, who have no future in the countries to which they have fled so they can be resettled in third countries. The IRC has a network of 25 resettlement offices across the country. We have so far resettled the largest number of Iraqi refugees of any of our sister agencies, but the total numbers admitted are shamefully small.

There's a niche program on whose board I serve, the Scholar Rescue Committee, which has developed a scholar rescue project for Iraqis and is based here in Washington. And its Executive Director Nada al-Soze is here, and you might want to talk with her as well. That's an example of a program that targets a very particular population of Iraqis who have skills, great academic credentials but have been driven out of their country and offer really promising human capital for other countries and hopefully, in time, they are able to return.

But as much as resettlement is one of the options, the only solution that's adequate to the scale of the problem -- again, 2 million refugees in neighboring countries -- the only solution adequate to that scale is for refugees to be able to return home when it's safe to do so and to return voluntarily. That, based on all of our conversations with refugees in Amman and Damascus and all the other data we're able to assemble, is a very long way off, but it is crucial that we recognize that long-term outcome is in everyone's interest, including especially Iraqi refugees.

But if resettlement and return are not viable options, either for very many or any time soon, that leaves the need for massively increased assistance to the refugees in their host communities in the meantime. What is striking is that all three options require a focus on opportunities for learning. Whether they return, remain or resettle, Iraqi refugee children will be even more disadvantaged if they do not gain access to quality education.

The bottom line is one that Angie and Safaa and Gene have all emphasized. To avoid perpetuating the crisis that now confronts Iraqi refugees, in order to avoid perpetuating it for generations to come, it is crucial that there be greatly increased educational assistance provided to these refugees now.

Thank you very much for your attention.

SPERLING: Thank you. You know, George, among the different things I was looking at, I was look at the survey UNHCR did on quite a few of the people that they surveyed in Syria. And some of these numbers are pretty amazing. Seventy-five percent had personally witnessed a car bombing leading to death, 68 percent said they had had their own life threatened. The statistic Angelina mentioned about the number of kids going through some type of trauma who aren't even displaced, who are just from the violence there. When you're looking at programs, when you're looking particularly at this situation, I guess what hits you is that these kids are not only -- you say 50 out of 250,000 in Syria -- I would imagine that these kids have fairly special needs and so are, therefore, you know, not always as easy.

And of course, we all know the more kids miss school, the more you have the problem of older kids having to sit with younger kids. And then that creates its own dimensions. How, when you're looking at this right now, do you try to build in this kind of trauma aspect into what you're doing?

RUPP: You're absolutely correct that that has to be a core focus of attention. I did not mean at all to suggest the fact that there are 50,000 Iraqi refugee kids going to Syrian schools means that they don't have huge problems that need to be addressed through various kinds of psychosocial programs. At least they have an access to some core learning.

But the fact is that virtually all of the people we talked to in both Amman and Damascus had firsthand experiences of the most severe and traumatic kinds of violence. Virtually every family had family members who were killed, who were no longer with them. Virtually every family had rape reports to give. And for young children to be aware of that, who have experienced it, means that there is far more that needs to be addressed than just basic curricular educational matters.

But it is nonetheless the case, as both Angie and Safaa have said. In crisis situations, one of the major ways of regularizing the routines and brining people out of trauma is to let them go back to school. So that is a very important part of it but certainly not the whole story.

SPERLING: And just one more follow up on your report. One of the things you mentioned in your report was also in the UNHCR report was that people leaving under emergency situations did not have legal documentation with them either, therefore had trouble establishing the ages of their kids or it sounded like there was also just kind of generalized fear that trying to register would somehow lead to negative consequences. How much did your commission find that to be an issue?

RUPP: We certainly did find it to be an issue. The number of refugees registered with the authorities, in Jordan in particular, is far smaller than everyone knows the number of refugee children is. And one of the main reasons for that is precisely the one you put your finger on and that we also highlighted in our report. There is great apprehension that in any way registering with authorities will lead to -- for one reason or another -- whether not having the correct documents or other concerns -- will lead to being sent back into Iraq. And that is a fate that none of the people we talked to could countenance at this point.

So it is a very serious problem that UNHCR has been unable to identify, through a registration process, the vast majority of refugees and refugee children who are afraid of registering.

SPERLING: And Safaa, you know, I guess, in a sense, we've been talking about a few different populations here. There's essentially the displaced in Syria and Jordan. And we should mention that there is smaller numbers in Egypt, Lebanon. But the overwhelming majority of probably 1 (million) to 1.5 million are in Syria then about 500,000 in Jordan. And then there's been the internally displaced population of which there also seems to be fairly solid numbers that it's about 800,000 in each of the south, central and northern are around 2.5 million.

It seems like the hardest population to get your hands around in terms of statistics are those who are just in their communities and in some way affected by violence. When I look through all the reports, you didn't get the super-hard numbers, but there just seemed to be so much anecdotal, bad news about girls in school. Women for Women International surveyed 1,500 women and said that 76 percent of the families said they had a girl in their school who was now not allowed to or couldn't go of poverty or fear.

Even I was talking to some of your colleagues in UNICEF just, again, talking about how complicated things get. They said, you know, some of the walls that are built that kind of provide security in a positive way overall have been negative for girls going to school because it makes them have to walk in long, awkward ways.

And I saw even another survey in the southern part of Iraq suggesting that even just two or three years ago, there was kind of two girls for every three boys in school. And now it's going to one to four. How much are you picking this up? And how much of this can be dealt with through educational interventions? Or how much of this is just larger security or poverty issues?

EL-KOGALI: It's both. I think the issue of girls education is one of the major challenges that the government identified in their dialogue with us. Clearly the security situation is key, and it affects girls more than boys. But to the extent that they can do something about it in terms of school construction, I think the more schools are built and closer to the communities, the more chance these girls can go to school because then the walking distance is less. That's one way looking to address it.

And in identifying the schools to be built and working with the Ministry of Education, we tried to look at where the need is and what type of school is needed. That's when asked they could also look very carefully in terms of where are the toilets and where's their location to try and take into account the cultural issues as well.

They still do have mixed schools, the primary level in a lot of places. So that is, in a way, positive because the girls can access the same schools that the boys can access. And we try to cater for the needs of girls as much as possible. They are also building girls-only schools.

So I think these are all interventions that we are trying to help the government undertake, both in what we finance at schools but also in the schools that they finance themselves.

SPERLING: And before I take some questions from the floor, Angelina, we've heard a little bit of the -- you've all kind of said something which I would like to believe, and you're all suggesting it, which is that even talking to the people in the most dire circumstances -- your story of the family you were talking to -- they're still putting education first. Is this something that varies, in your experience, in the different countries or the different stage of conflict? Or is this a constant that you witness?

JOLIE: It's absolutely a constant. It's some of the reasons that you and I first started talking, you know. It has been traveling to refugee camps for over seven years, and certainly I've had so many different experiences. I remember spending the night on the Thai border in a Burmese camp. And all these teenagers kind of breaking in and trying to get into my room. Not my room, I was staying with a family, but I was in the door, and near the side. It was kind of this odd bamboo shelter. But they were kind of knocking. And it was dangerous for them because there are camp leaders and there are police, and it wasn't okay for them to come out. No idea what they wanted to talk about or ask me, and I thought maybe something to do with, you know, maybe questions I'm used to from teenagers. (Laughter.)

And they came in, and they had written down their number in the camp, kind of where they lived. And they said, can you send us, this is what we need. And they had listed the different books that they wanted. They wanted grammar books. And they wanted a lot of dictionaries. And they wanted some pens, and they wanted some things. And they said that was it. And then raced back to their rooms, and said please don't tell anybody we came in, and we don't want to get in trouble. And that was it.

So I've had that experience. I've had experiences pretty much everywhere I've gone. And I think most people here -- anybody who's visited these kind of areas where you're sitting there writing in your journal or your notes and kids start begging you for pieces of paper. I made the mistake of taking out a bunch of Bic pens to pass out to a bunch of kids and started a mob of children pushing each other and, you know, it was horrible, hitting each other just to get a silly little Bic pen.

They're desperate for these things. It's not just that they've heard their parents tell them education is important or they want to do something. They're really, really desperate for education. And I have also seen. I've returned to camps. I've seen one girl in particular, who had witnessed her family killed, and survived with a sibling and was just rocking. She wouldn't talk, she was just rocking. And I -- do I try to talk to her? And wouldn't talk to me at all, and I couldn't help her at all.

And I came back, I don't remember how many months, maybe six months later, and she was in school. And she was talking. And the teacher said, you know, that they first started with crayons and drawing pictures and everything. But eventually she had made some friends, and they were trying to get her to now join a little soccer game. But it was slow, but it was going to be the difference of whether this kid became, you know, a traumatized little girl that had no voice or somebody who was going to have a voice and going to be okay.

So yes, absolutely, across the board it is what everybody wants. It's what parents want for their kids, and it's definitely what the children are desperate for.

SPERLING: We'll take some questions from the floor. The normal thing to say is it has to be a question. We have a strong group here. If you have a comment -- I mean this. I don't want to put people in a situation where they have a contribution, they've been to Iraq, they have a contribution they want to make, and they have to jam it into a question format. (Laughter.)

But Robin right in the front row here does ask questions for a living. So my guess is she'll have one.

QUESTIONER: Robin Wright, The Washington Post and a member of the council.

I'd like to ask a question of both the co-chairs. Can you provide a candid assessment of what the United States has done or perhaps what it's not done to address this issue over the last five years? And secondly, you're meeting today on the day that General Petraeus and Ryan Crocker are on the Hill to give us an assessment. What is your sense of whether the U.S. decision to stay or to go from Iraq will have on the situation of refugees and education for children?

SPERLING: Let me start with just a little bit of the overall situation. You know, the overall situation of the U.S. support for education is a mixed story to be sure. I would say that since 1998, there has been progress, school lunches, debt relief for education, increases for fighting child labor in the end of the '90s. You know, one very nice bit of bipartisanship that was under the screen a lot was that Nita Lowey and Jim Colby on the House Foreign Operations Committee did make a very conscious effort to move up the amount of money going to education generally, I would say, over the last six, seven years so that it has gone up a decent amount but off a very low base.

This is very different than let's say the Netherlands and the U.K. where their percentage -- so for example, the U.K. is committing $1.5 billion a year. So it's about three times more, and yet their GDP is about one-fifth to one-sixth our size. So you know, one can ask, do the people in the U.K. actually care twenty times more about this than we do? My guess is not.

So one, I think there has been movement. There is a bipartisan piece of legislation now called the Education for All Act which has, you know, Republican and Democrat co-sponsor, Nita Lowey and Spencer Bachus in the House and Gordon Smith and Hillary Clinton on the Senate side. And it's garnered quite a bit of co-sponsorship so far. I think one of the important things, though, and I think is a reflection of this, is the bill was drafted in '04; by '07 the amount that it mentioned -- refugee conflict made clear that that was a permissible purpose for the money -- has gone up dramatically.

I think, in terms of the money that goes in the conflict situations, it is complicated. And it's one thing Congresswoman Lowey talks about. Some of the money goes through the military. And I think it may be a while before one can assess how much has gone through and whether or not this is the right approach or the right coordinated approach that you want to deal.

But I think the larger problem has been often the conflict situations that are not in the news. I think the United States made a very concerted effort in Kabul for a while and did have a significant affect on girls there. But you know, if you look at the places everybody is talking about in African, the post-conflict places, the pre-conflict, it's a story of respectable, incremental gains. But there has not been that type of leap that we've seen in like HIV/AIDS. And there's hope of that going forward.

So I think, you know, I think this what you're hearing from us, I think, reflects a growing consciousness now that you can't just have a high-performing government strategy, that you have to have a strategy that's based more in post-conflict not just -- and USAID folks -- Yolanda's here somewhere -- would say this -- not just for the kids, as we've talked about but also as part of preventing future conflict. A large population of young men who have lost their education for five years and then do not have educational accelerated learning opportunities, you know, are not propitious for stability. As Angelina said, it's a test between, you know, one has to compare the good they can do versus the harm when there is no opportunities.

I'm hesitant to wade into the entire Iraq issue except to say that I think we -- but I'll let Angelina wade as much as she feels like she wants to. (Laughter.) You know, I think this is the important -- you know, I think these are one of the important things to bring out. And I think it's very complicated. I think that you want -- you know, one can say, some people have said, well, you know, you need a certain amount of security to make sure people can move around. Other people have said, well, that continually links the scent of education to kind of military operations.

So I think that on this, I think the important thing is for people to have a very serious view, to not forget these children and to understand the dimensions, the internally displaced within, the ones affected by violence. And then, you know, as you heard from George, the situation of these young people in Syria and Jordan is, despite all their good work, you know, very, very, very depressing.

JOLIE: Oh, gosh.

SPERLING: If you could just give your withdrawal strategy. (Laughter.) I think that's what Robin wanted.

JOLIE: Well, I'd like to address two things -- the refugees admitted to the U.S., and I'd like to also address -- when I was in Iraq, I went there also as a representative of UNHCR and knowing that their staff has been wanting to scale-up inside Iraq, nut it's been difficult because of security. And I watched some progress when I was there. I watched, you know, there was a discussion between UNHCR and General Petraeus of whether or not they'd be able to move into certain areas to be able to assess this is how many homes have been burnt down, this is who's living in somebody else's house. We have to see these areas so we can actually tell people who want to return or help them return or even help them understand legal issues of the return.

And there was some progress there, and UNHCR did add five more staff members inside about a month ago, or committed them so hopefully they'll be moving in soon. And I would think there's been so many aid workers and people that have been there, even when it was impossible to be there, and have been giving aid. But I would think even Petraeus would agree that a surge does not just mean it works if you get numbers of violence down. It works if humanitarian aid is starting to increase and changes are able to be made.

So I think he knows that. I would assume the U.S. government knows that, that this is the time to start making some big changes and some big steps forward for all the people.

For the refugees admitted to the U.S., there has been an increase in the last few months. I have the exact numbers for somebody or some exact numbers. But from February, it was 444, January it was 375, and last month it was 751. So it's good it's rising. Obviously, we have to acknowledge that and see it as a good sign. But that also means they still have about, in order to meet their quota, six months to admit over 9,000.

(Off mike commentary.)

The total quota was 12,000, yes, exactly. I think a lot of us feel it could have been met. But at the same time, we're happy that the numbers are at least rising and hope that they continue to rise and are just pushing for at least as many, you know, in the next six months as possible for these families. So that's what I'll say about that. I won't say any more, I won't give my troop withdrawal strategy.

SPERLING: Okay. That's for next month's CFR meeting. (Laughter.)

I'm sorry -- who -- right here.

And could you identify yourself, please.

QUESTIONER: (Name inaudible) -- with the Scholar Rescue Fund, the program that Mr. Rupp has referred to.

And my program helps Iraqi scholars, those who are still in Iraq and those who are residing in host countries, in Syria and Jordan. We are over two years fellowship and we pay the universities through these two years so that the scholars can go back to work, reconnect with their Iraqi students, whether in those countries or those who are still in Iraq. My question to the panelists is that, has any effort started to build colleges and schools in exile where we can utilize some of our scholars to help extend college-level education to Iraqi refugees residing in those countries, knowing at least that we can start colleges of education that later on will provide teachers to schools to be rebuilt in Iraq and help educating the Iraqi community?

SPERLING: Are you talking about within Iraq or you mean like --

QUESTIONER: No, in the host countries, in Syria and Jordan. And moreover, how can agencies, like the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund, be helped through agencies, NGOs and governments to build up those universities so that, for example, we can start with placing the scholars that we rescue at these universities?

SPERLING: You know, the only thing I would just say in terms of the tension -- and I'll let George and Safaa mention -- is, you know, if you look at places like Jordan right now where you have incredibly overcrowded classrooms -- many kids were in school before the refugees came in -- and then the potential, as George said, of the resentment if you feel like -- even at these kids' level where you're dealing with, you know, relatively small amounts of money, a few hundred dollars to send a kid to school -- the sense that, and this is a common issue, that the refugee children will somehow be seen as being treated better than other poor children there or actually bringing down the quality of education through overcrowded classrooms, you can imagine that there would be great tension if, you know, dramatic amounts of money were then spent on college education when money is fungible.

So I think this really is a big question for the donor community. You know, one can, I think, ask Jordan or Syria to be funding, at the college level, for other people's returns when they face so much strain just dealing with, as we see, one-fifth. I was happy to hear George say one-fifth. It had been one-tenth before of the children. So it really is a very big question for, I think, the global donor community.

RUPP: Well, first, just on that little detail of numbers. I think that the 50,000 thousand that I talked about is in Syria. I think that your number of one-tenth is about right for Jordan in terms of the numbers.

Well, we know that most questions are really statements. And yours seems to me, both in your preparatory statement and then in your question, to have the interrogative form to be a statement. The Scholar Rescue Fund is working hard at trying to raise money for those kinds of educational opportunities in Jordan, maybe even in Saudi Arabia, other countries in the neighborhood. I know of no other efforts that are under way. So it seems to me important that the Scholar Rescue Fund keep working on that.

But I think, for the reasons Gene gave, it's going to be very hard for that to be a focused priority given the really horrendous needs at the lower-educational levels.

SPERLING: Safaa, do you have anything to add?

EL-KOGALI: Yeah. I mean, our programs don't usually work directly with the people. We work through governments. And so if a request comes through the host country government, for example Jordan or Syria, saying that we are interested in building a college to host the refugees, and this is done in consultation with the Iraqi government and such, that would be something we could look at. But usually, our channels are through governments to whatever the needs identified by the people of these countries.

(Audio break.)

-- donor support. That is, at this point, you know, a far, far cry. But thank you. This group (Tommy Rousseau ?) -- yeah, okay.

Okay, let me do some geographic fairness -- in the very back.

QUESTIONER: Hi, I'm Heather Hanson. I'm from Mercy Corps. And we've been working in Iraq really since 2003. We've never left, and our staff remain on the ground there. And we've done about $150 million of projects. About half of those, roughly, probably, are focused on education.

And on my recent trip there to Iraq, Jordan and Syria, I talked to a lot of the children who are in those programs. And one issue that arose with a classroom of IDPs in northern Iraq, they all said -- I said, you know, what message would you want me to take back to the U.S.? And they said, tell the people in the U.S. that we don't want to leave where we are now. We want to stay where we are. We want to stay here because we're safe and because we can study. And so what had happened was a transformation for these kids, many of whom were from Baghdad who hadn't been able to study in years. And now as IDPs, they're finally able to have the opportunity to study. And that means that they want to stay. And in many cases, it means that their families want to stay.

And you all know this intense debate about returns going on in the region right now and about parallel systems. How can we advocate strongly for kids' education without raising concerns of host country governments or others that education is one of the reasons, if they get that, they'll never return?

JOLIE: Well, I don't know if I'm the best person to answer this, but I would say is -- that you're absolutely right. And I think the crucial thing is, you know, what that says is we have to be able to offer them, when they return, an equal or even better schooling in their home of origin. So we have to make sure that the schools in -- but we can't talk about returning people to Baghdad, and that's a great idea, and let's start just moving them back until we know that those schools are back and up and running and safe.

And that is THE goal we should be working towards, not just, you know, how to help people while they're in displacement. But it is that return that we all need to focus on in the long run.

SPERLING: We have probably just time for one more -- or I'll try to do two. I'll tell you what, I'll take here and I have to take Joan Lombardi or I'll get beat up later. (Laughter.)

QUESTIONER: Hi, my name is Belinda Wilson, and I'm representing Senator Mary Landrieu's office.

She's been working on the Iraqi Orphans Amendment. And she has a question. She wants to know, is there an estimation of the total number of orphans that have been affected? And also, is that number inclusive of Syria and Jordan? And the second part of my question would be, who would you recommend for her to speak with to help with this amendment?

JOLIE: I'd love to speak to her about it -- (scattered laughter) -- so I'll get in touch with you about it. (Laughter.) But I would say, you know, the orphan numbers are also very confusing in many countries, especially in Arab countries -- help me with this. But sometimes when a child loses just one parent -- the father's been killed but the mother's still alive -- they're called an orphan. So that is one thing to start to, as you get into it, really separate and try to understand, you know. Our traditional understanding of what an orphan is is not necessarily the same in those parts of the world. So I don't know the numbers, but I would think that that's the key to trying to really figure them out.

SPERLING: Zainab Salbi, head of Women to Women International, I mean, they found exactly what Angelina said. I mean, they find an extremely high number of people are widows or orphans. But just as Angelina said, she said when they counted, they had to count people who had just lost one parent because that's how most counted. Now, her argument was that since the parent is often the father and often has much of the kind of property rights, legal documentation, et cetera that it wasn't necessarily wrong to think of it that way, that in many contexts the children, you know, had lost wasn't a much worse situation than you would think of with the single parent.

But those are Angelina's two areas she specializes on is education displacement and orphans. And I would think her and I would think the woman who runs Women for Women International is, as you may know, is the daughter of Saddam Hussein's former pilot and so is an Iraqi herself. So that might be another person.

And Joan Lombardi, you have the last question.

QUESTIONER: Hi, I'm Joan Lombardi. I work with the Consultative Group on Early Care and Development.

And we know that the conflict situation has been affecting all children. We've been particularly concerned about the tremendous impact it's having on very young children, children before they are able to enter school. Could you talk a little bit about what you're seeing and give us any examples or hope that we can integrate strategies for very young children into the strategic planning that's going on for all children?

JOLIE: I would just say that I know there are a lot of art programs and things because the children I've seen that are very, very young, it's very hard to understand exactly what's happening. But that's been the greatest programs have been through art and that can reach any age, however young. But clearly, you can tell certain kids -- I've met kids that you'd almost assume at first meeting whether they have something that we would almost say, is are they autistic? What's happened to them? And you find that there's nothing actually wrong with them, but they've suffered a lot of bombings, or a bomb happened, and they ran away for three days. And then when they were found, they were different, or things like this. So yes, that is an important group.

RUPP: In our educational programs, not just in Jordan or Syria or Iraq but in others as well in post-conflict situations, we really start with what we call child-friendly spaces. And that does not discriminate between preschool kids and older kids because it really is a matter, first, of getting them to be able to get into some routine, to express themselves, often through art and other ways. And that's crucial for very young children but also for school-age children. And it's almost always some time before any kind of formalized schooling is feasible or appropriate for children who have been traumatized in that way.

So I think your question points to a need that has to be addressed and, in any program that is thought through, will be addressed, even as we move toward more formalized education.

EL-KOGALI: Gene, I had just a comment on the question about the orphans.

SPERLING: Sure.

EL-KOGALI: We have some numbers. About the situation in Baghdad where overall we have an estimate of 23 orphanages in Iraq, there's seven in Baghdad, that can hold around 1,600 orphans. But the current estimate we have is about 5,000. And so there is a very great need to address the issues of orphans, at least in the Baghdad area.

SPERLING: I'd like to thank so many people, I can't mention them all, the CFR staff of Lisa Shields and her team and Rachel Peterson and my team and, of course, Holly for helping make this event take place. I think as Angelina said, there is a lot written about conflict and violence. And the children, particularly their education, often doesn't get its focus, its day. And the fact that so many of you who do so many serious things would take this afternoon to focus and learn more about this, this is an issue, I think, that will be a critical issue for a long time if these children don't fall through the cracks, if they're not forgotten, if they're not out of our minds.

I started by reading a quote from Valentino Achak Deng from the subject of David Eggers' book "What is the What." And just close with a point Angelina said about the difference between what education brings. I would imagine when you're reading that book, you probably feel that at 9 years old, he was about as bad off as a child could be. He thought he had lost both his parents. He had been displaced, virtually naked, probably walking a couple of thousand miles watching friends killed brutally almost every day. And somebody -- the groups in this room, UNHCR, other people -- decided that when he arrived at one of the refugee camps that there would be an education. And to see him at the Clinton Global Initiative taking a day off from college in the United States in his suit speaking, it really was the face of the difference for children of conflict that education can or can't make.

So thank you. I hope you'll join us in the future for future sessions. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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Audio

Iraq, Education, and Children of Conflict (Audio)

Speakers: Angelina Jolie, Safaa El-Kogali, and George E. Rupp
Presider: Gene B. Sperling

Listen to experts discuss issues surrounding the education of children of conflict, specifically with regard to the current situation in Iraq.

Video

Iraq, Education, and Children of Conflict

Speakers: Angelina Jolie, Safaa El-Kogali, and George E. Rupp
Presider: Gene B. Sperling

Watch experts discuss issues surrounding the education of children of conflict, specifically with regard to the current situation in Iraq.