In a statement delivered in Geneva today, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, highlighted the support of her Office for the recently completed Safe Schools Declaration and Guidelines, which aim to protect schools and universities from military use during armed conflict.
SRSG Zerrougui said she and her Office would continue to “strongly advocate” on behalf of children in conflict situations to persuade as many Member States as possible to commit to the Declaration, which has already received 46 endorsements.
The statement was delivered on SRSG Zerrougui’s behalf at a “side event” called Safe Schools: Protecting Education from Attack, at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.
“While some claim there is a military logic to using schools, Governments and military commanders must also be cognizant of the grave repercussions such commandeering has on children’s right to education,” SRSG Zerrougui said in her statement.
The most dire consequences would see the school or university targeted for weapons fire by an opposing force, thereby endagering the lives of childrean and other civilians in the area.
“At best, the military’s presence arguably dilutes, and can even dispel the feeling for children that their school is their sanctuary where they can exercise their right to education – especially in locations where conflict and confusion are sadly more the norm than the exception,” SRSG Zerrougui said in her statement.
The UN Security Council’s resolution 1998, which calls for greater action to ensure schools and hospitals are shielded from warfare, put the issue on the global agenda in 2011.
The office of Children and Armed Conflict and three UN-system partners subsequently issued the booklet “Protect Schools and Hospitals” to serve as a comprehensive Guidance Note on the resolution.
In March 2014, UN Security Council resolution 2143 called on Member States to consider “concrete measures” to deter the military use of schools. With the publication in December of the present “Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict” – otherwise known as the “Safe Schools Guidelines” – Member States now have a voluntary framework for achieving that aim.
The Security Council last week reaffirmed its commitment to the issue, saying in its resolution 2225 on the protection of children in armed conflict that it encourages Member States to “take” concrete measures to deter the use of schools by armed forces and armed groups.