With wars raging in many countries, the first anniversary of the Safe Schools Declaration is a reminder that political commitment is needed to protect students, teachers, and schools in times of conflict
Supporting the international declaration to protect education in armed conflict is more important than ever with conflicts ravaging many countries, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) said. Marking the first anniversary of the adoption of the Safe Schools Declaration, it congratulated the 53 countries that have endorsed the declaration. By joining the Safe Schools Declaration, countries make concrete political commitments to protect students, teachers, and educational facilities during times of armed conflict.
“The countries that have endorsed the Declaration are building a community of states that recognises the urgency of protecting education in wartime and is leading by example,” said GCPEA Director Diya Nijhowne. “While the community is growing rapidly, many other countries still need to join, and those that have should do more to carry out the Declaration’s commitments.”
Forest Whitaker, artist and UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, issued a video at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, last week supporting the Safe Schools Declaration. “We can have a world of community builders or we can have a world of soldiers – and the difference between these two outcomes depends primarily on the fact that the children in conflict-impacted regions receive the education they are entitled to,” he said in his address. “Schools and universities are becoming part of the battlefield.”
By endorsing the Declaration, countries make every effort to collect reliable data on attacks on education, and support humanitarian programming that promotes the continuation of education during armed conflict. They also endorse and make a commitment to use the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, which offer practical guidance to help armed forces and non-state armed groups avoid using educational buildings or making them targets of attack.
Between 2009 and 2013, there was a pattern of attacks on education in 30 countries around the world, the coalition found. Schools and universities have been used for military purposes by government forces and non-state armed groups in at least 26 countries during armed conflicts since 2005.