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Use the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities From Military Use

Use the Guidelines and bring them into domestic policy and operational frameworks as far as possible and appropriate

The Guidelines are intended to provide guidance to states and armed non-state actors for the planning and execution of military operations. They are primarily aimed at parties involved in armed conflict. The Guidelines are intended, therefore, for wide dissemination and implementation by both state and armed non-state actors.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of recommended actions to be undertaken by governments, the security sector, and civil society and international organizations to operationalize the Guidelines.


Create provisions for the protection of educational facilities from military use in domestic policies and legislation;

Include protection of education from military use in military doctrine, codes of conduct, rules of engagement;

Disseminate the Guidelines in military training activities and outline specific measures that armed forces can take to mitigate potential risks for local students and teachers. Such trainings should take into account the specific needs of males and females;

Record cases of military use of schools by national armed forces or armed non-state actors.

Security Sector

Give explicit instructions to national armed forces either not to use educational facilities for military purposes in any circumstance, or to only use them as a last resort, for the shortest time possible, and when such facilities are no longer functioning as educational institutions;

Ensure that, if national armed forces are presently using schools or universities in a situation of armed conflict, action is swiftly taken to correct the situation, as appropriate, and in accordance with the government’s policy;

Integrate the Guidelines into operational frameworks and training manuals, as far as is possible and appropriate.

International Organizations and Civil Society Sector

Advocate for implementation of the Guidelines and support government and armed actors’ efforts to protect education from military use of schools;

Sensitize community members and armed non-state actors to the importance of keeping schools safe and refraining from using schools for military purposes;

Monitor the conduct of armed actors and report incidents of military use of schools.


Explicit prohibition of military use of schools by armed forces

Democratic Republic of Congo: The DRC issued a directive outlining the explicit prohibition of requisitioning schools, stating "[A]ll those found guilty of one of the following shortcomings will face severe criminal and disciplinary sanctions: ... requisition of schools ... for military purposes.”- Ministerial Directive on the implementation of the Action Plan, Department of National Defence and Veterans, NoVPM/MDNAC/CAB/2089/2012, November 3, 2012.

Philippines: In January 2019, the Philippines adopted the Children in Situations of Armed Conflict bill, which prohibits the military use of schools. Attacks on schools are also prohibited (Section 9(b)(9)) on penalty of imprisonment for 14-20 years and a fine of 1-2 million pesos. -“Republic Act 11188 or an Act Providing Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict and Providing Penalties Thereof”

South Sudan: By Order of the Army Chief of Staff (Lt. Gen. Thomas Cirillo Swaka, Acting Sudan People’s Liberation Army Chief of Staff, 557/9/2014, September 10, 2014), all soldiers are prohibited from occupying or using schools in any manner. Anyone who violates the directive is subject to the full range of disciplinary and administrative measures available under South Sudanese and international law.

Sudan: In July 2017, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) circulated a command order to all divisions prohibiting the military use of schools. The SAF began the process of evacuating and rehabilitating schools that had been in use by the National Intelligence Security Services. A school in South Kordofan was evacuated and rehabilitated in August 2016, having been occupied by the Sudanese National Intelligence Security Services (NISS) since March 2016. It was evacuated following advocacy by the UN and the Sudanese Ministry of Education.

Incorporation of the Guidelines in national policies and laws and existing codes of conduct, rules of engagement, military manuals, and other relevant documents
National Legislation

Ecuador: National legislation passed in 2010 determined that campuses of universities and other higher education institutes cannot be searched and must be used exclusively for educational purposes, stating that “the monitoring and maintenance of internal order are the responsibility of campus authorities…those who violate these campuses will be sanctioned in accordance with law."- Ley Orgánica de Educación Superior. República del Ecuador. Registro Oficial Suplemento 298 de 12-oct. 2010. Art. 19.

Philippines: National legislation includes an explicit protection of educational facilities from military use: “Public infrastructure such as schools … shall not be utilized for military purposes such as command posts, barracks, detachments, and supply depots…"- RA No. 7610, An Act Providing for Stronger Deterrence and Special Protection against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination, Providing Penalties for its Violation and Other Purposes, June 17, 1992, art. X(22)(e).

Military doctrine and manuals

Colombia: Military use of educational institutions is characterized as a violation of the principles of distinction and precaution in a military order: “Considering International Humanitarian Law norms, it is considered a clear violation of the Principle of Distinction and the Principle of Precaution in attacks and, therefore a serious fault, the fact that a commander occupies or allows the occupation by his troops, of … public institutions such as education establishments."- General Commander of the Military Forces, order of July 6, 2010, official document Number 2010124005981 / CGFM-CGING- 25.11.

Denmark: The military manual on the law of the armed forces explicitly protects educational institutions: “Protection of children entails some respect for children’s right to education etc., including in conflict affected areas… [R]estraint should be exercised with respect to use of schools and other education institutions in support of Danish military operations. This particular focus on schools is due to the grave consequences of military use, not only in terms of immediate risk to the lives of children and young people, who may be in or in the neighborhood of such schools, but also more long-term consequences for school aged children."- Military Manual on the Law of the Danish Armed Forces in International Military Operations, September 2016, pp. 45, 115, & 154.

New Zealand: New Zealand has released their updated military manual, which highlights the importance of protecting education and calls for military use of educational infrastructure to be avoided unless absolutely necessary, with a footnote to the Declaration and Guidelines. It also says that schools that have become military targets may only be attacked if “imperatively demanded by military necessity", which is in line with Guideline 4. “Use and occupation of schools and other educational institutions obviously inhibits the exercise of this right [to education] and is to be avoided wherever possible… [Defence forces] are not to use school buildings or facilities for military purposes unless it is absolutely necessary." – Manual of Armed Forces Law, volume 4, 2019.

United Kingdom: Reference to the Safe Schools Declaration and a copy of the Guidelines have been included in the Ministry of Defense’s Joint Service Publication 1325 on Human Security in Military Operations.

Protection of schools from military use by peacekeepers and police

Central African Republic: MINUSCA issued a directive in 2015 (MINUSCA/OSRSG/046/2015) which states that “[a]ll MINUSCA military and police personnel should avoid encroaching on the security and education of children by using the following guidelines as good practice […] The use of a school or university by a party to a conflict is not permitted, and cannot provide grounds for continuation of such use”.

Somalia: In 2017, in the context of implementing the Declaration, AMISOM handed a number of educational buildings back to the authorities, including the Somali National University. Prior to the handover, the UN Support Office in Somalia supported the clearance of all unexploded ordnance and rehabilitated the buildings that had been occupied by the troops.

United Nations Department of Peace Operations: There is an explicit ban on military use of schools in the UN peacekeeping framework: “Schools shall not be used by the military in their operations.”- United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, United Nations Department of Field Support, United Nations Infantry Battalion Manual, Vol. I, August 2012, section 2.13.

Trainings on the use of the Guidelines

Côte d’Ivoire: The armed forces of Côte d’Ivoire have integrated modules on the rights and protection of children, including a specific module on prohibiting occupation of schools and training institutions. The training is established in the four military regions of Côte d'Ivoire, and provided by a child protection cell, which is staffed with trained military personnel.

United Nations Department of Peace Operations: DPO integrated a case study on military use of schools in child protection training materials for UN peacekeepers. The case study includes a scenario of military use of a school and suggested questions to guide the discussion. -United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Specialized Training Materials on Child Protection for Peacekeepers – Trainers Guide, Module 6, pp. 144-145.


“The Safe Schools Declaration: A Framework For Action”, GCPEA, 2017.

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“Commentary on the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military use during Armed Conflict”, GCPEA, 2015.

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“Protecting Schools from Military Use: Law, Policy, and Military Doctrine”, Human Rights Watch, 2017.
“Implementing the Guidelines: A toolkit to guide understanding and implementation of the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military use during Armed Conflict”, GCPEA-Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, 2017.

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