Education International welcomes the move by Denmark to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, a commitment to protect students, teachers, schools, and universities during times of war.
Education International (EI) and its affiliates congratulate the Danish government for becoming on 3 May the latest country to endorse the international political commitment known as the Safe Schools Declaration. The commendation was issued by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), an inter-agency coalition formed in 2010 to address the issue of targeted attacks on education during armed conflict.
Safe from attack
Keeping education safe from the types of attacks the GCPEA works to highlight is the other dimension to the EI/United Nations Girls’ Education school-related gender-based violence initiative. This initiative seeks to keep schools free from violence that can be committed by students, teachers and education support personnel, who can also all be victims of such violence.
The United Nations Security Council has also recognised the devastating consequences of attacks on education and military use of schools. In a series of resolutions, including 1998 (2011) and 2143 (2014), it has urged all parties to armed conflict to respect the civilian character of schools in accordance with international humanitarian law. Most recently, in resolution 2225 (2015), it encouraged member states to take concrete measures to deter the use of schools by armed forces and armed groups in contravention of applicable international law.
Denmark’s endorsement of the Declaration heeds the Security Council’s call. It also follows the release, in September 2016, of the Danish Armed Forces’ new military manual, which includes progressive protections for schools in conflict.
Sixty-four countries have now endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, including most of the European Union and NATO member states. The Safe Schools Declaration is an inter-governmental political commitment that facilitates countries to express support for protecting students, teachers, schools, and universities from attack during times of armed conflict. It stresses the importance of continuing education during armed conflict.
By joining the Declaration, countries pledge to restore access to education when schools are bombed, burned, and destroyed during armed conflict, and undertake to make it less likely that students, teachers, and schools will be attacked in the first place. They agree to deter such violence by promising to investigate and prosecute war crimes involving schools, and to minimise the use of schools for military purposes so they do not become targets for attack.
The Declaration was developed through consultations with states in a process led by Norway and Argentina in Geneva, Switzerland, and opened for endorsement at the Oslo Conference on Safe Schools in 2015. The Second International Conference on Safe Schools was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 28-29 March this year.