Support the efforts of the UN Security Council on children and armed conflict, and of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and other relevant UN organs, entities, and agencies
The protection of education during armed conflict, which the Safe Schools Declaration seeks to promote, has particular links with the broader framework on the protection of children in armed conflict put in place by the United Nations (UN).
Attacks on schools and hospitals during conflict is one of the six grave violations against children identified and condemned by the UN Security Council. In 2011, by adopting resolution 1998, the Security Council gave the UN a mandate to identify and list, in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report on Children and Armed Conflict, the armed forces and groups that attack schools or protected persons in relation to schools. Resolution 1998 requested that the Secretary-General continue to monitor and report on the military use of schools in contravention of international humanitarian law, as well as on attacks against, and/or kidnapping of teachers. The resolution also asked listed parties to conflict to work with the UN to prepare concrete, time-bound action plans to end and prevent the violations. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Children and Armed Conflict works closely with those parties to strengthen their capacity to monitor and report incidents affecting children’s right to education in situations of conflict.
On October 29, 2021, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2601 (2021) on the protection of education during conflict, the first thematic resolution on attacks on education. It was led by Norway and Niger and supported by an unprecedented 99 co-sponsors. The resolution condemns attacks against schools, children, and teachers and urges parties to the conflict to immediately safeguard the right to education. It references the Safe Schools Declaration, and makes explicit the links between education, peace, and security. A UN Security Council Arria- Formula Meeting was held on December 6 to discuss concrete steps for implementing Resolution 2601, including through implementing the Safe Schools Declaration.
At the 47th session of the Human Rights Council, in July 2021, the resolution on the right to education was adopted by consensus. It referenced the Safe Schools Declaration and the Guidelines and called on states to consider implementing them. This is the first time the Guidelines appeared in a UN resolution. At the 53rd session of the Human Rights Council, in July 2023, the revised resolution on the right to education was adopted, further strengthening the language on protecting education, expanding language on higher education, and referring to UN Security Council Resolution 2601 (2021). The 2023 HRC resolution was the first UN resolution to urge member states to consider endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration.
The first annual UN International Day to Protect Education from Attack was established by a unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly and celebrated on September 9, 2020, providing an annual opportunity to galvanize action to protect education.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of recommended actions to be undertaken by governments, in particular the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to implement the commitment to support efforts of the UN Security Council on children and armed conflict, and of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict and other relevant UN organs, entities and agencies.
EXAMPLES OF GOOD PRACTICE
African Union: In 2016, the African Union Peace and Security Council called for support to the Guidelines, specifically calling on all Member States in conflict situations to “comply with International Humanitarian law and to ensure that schools are not used for military purposes.” The Council welcomed initiatives taken by some Member States “to promote and protect the right of children to education and to facilitate the continuation of education in situations of armed conflicts.” The Council commended the fifteen AU Members States that had already endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration and urged all other AU Member States to also endorse the Declaration. - African Union Peace and Security Council, 597th Meeting, May 10, 2016, Press Statement (PSC/PR/BR.(DXCVII)).
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council has also, over the years, welcomed the Declaration. For example, at its 994th meeting on 11 May 2021, the Council took “note of the growing number of AU Member States who have signed and endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration and its Guidelines as a non-binding framework assisting States in undertaking their respective obligations under international law.”
The principles of the Declaration are included in the AU Doctrine on Peace Support Operations, adopted in January 2021, which directly refers to the central commitment of the SSD, namely, to “ensure that schools are not attacked and used for military purposes”. This is an important milestone which reflects the growing consensus within the African continent on the importance of protecting schools.
Malaysia: Malaysia announced its endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration at the Security Council: “We are equally alarmed by the increasing instances of attacks on schools and hospitals, as well as the military use of schools by both State and non-State armed groups, thereby depriving thousands of children of access to education and health care. Building on the Security Council’s call, in resolutions 1998 (2011) and 2143 (2014), for the protection of schools from attack and military use. (translation by GCPEA).
New Zealand: In a statement encouraging support for the Guidelines at the UN Security Council, New Zealand condemned “the intentional targeting and military use of schools, teachers and students.” New Zealand stressed that “it is unacceptable that any child be denied his or her right to education, and no family should ever fear sending its child to school.” Furthermore, New Zealand’s Defense Force “operates under a structured framework around the use of schools, all underpinned by core principles, including the protection of civilians and children, and respect for children’s rights to education. New Zealand endorses the development of the (…) Guidelines and encourages other States to do likewise.”
Niger: On September 10, 2020, the Security Council, under the presidency of the Republic of Niger, held an Open Debate on Attacks against Schools as a Grave Violation of Children’s Rights- the first formal debate by the Security Council on attacks on education. The same day, the Security Council issued a milestone Presidential Statement (PRST) – the first outcome document solely focused on attacks on education. The PRST noted the efforts of states that have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration and highlighted the impact of attacks on education on women and girls. During the debate, nine states underscored the importance of the Safe Schools Declaration and GCPEA’s research.
Nigeria: Nigeria highlighted its endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration in a statement at the Security Council: “As a demonstration of our national commitment to the well-being of children, Nigeria was among the first group of States to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration in Oslo, Norway, on 29 May. The Declaration complements and strengthens our existing national safe schools’ initiative, established in 2014 as part of the policy response of the federal Government to promote safe zones for learning. The Guidelines for protecting schools and universities from military use during armed conflict will serve as a compass to guide and reinforce efforts towards the achievement of this objective. We are committed to the dissemination of these Guidelines and to promoting their implementation. We are indeed persuaded that this initiative will promote and protect the right to education and prevent the discontinuities in education inherent in situations of armed conflict.”