Education International
Education International

UN: Resolution on the right to education in armed conflict areas

published 15 July 2011 updated 20 July 2011

EI welcomes a new resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council as a major step forward in preventing attacks and making schools safe for children and education personnel in armed conflict situations.

The new resolution was passed on 12 July by the UN Security Council which is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, exercised through resolutions, include establishment of peacekeeping operations, international sanctions and the authorisation of military action.

The resolution calls on the UN Secretary-General to report about parties to armed conflict that attack schools and hospitals and/or their personnel, or threaten to do so. It also calls for UN monitoring of the military use of schools and hospitals. Parties that attack these institutions will be required to negotiate with the UN to create time-bound action plans to stop these abuses.

Global awareness of the extent of attacks on education occurred for the first time in 2007 with UNESCO’s publication, ‘Education under attack’. UNESCO updated this publication in 2010 achieving further momentum.

In 2008, EI’s Executive Board adopted recommendations on attacks on education and persecution of teachers; in 2009, EI’s Declaration ‘ Schools shall be safe sanctuarie s’ was adopted.

In seeking to engage the international community on this initiative, EI helped to form the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack ( GCPEA). The Coalition, was successfully launched in June 2011, and has the capacity to step up cohesive and concerted action to protect education from attack.

In the last four years, armed forces and non-state armed groups have attacked education institutions, students and teachers and interrupted education in more than 30 countries. The UN Secretary-General’s most recent report on children and armed conflict documents direct physical damage to schools, closure of schools as a result of threats and intimidation, military use of schools, and the use of schools as recruiting grounds in armed conflicts across the globe.  More than 28 million children not in school live in countries affected by armed conflict. This constitutes a significant barrier to the achievement of education for all, as documented by the 2011 EFA Global Monitoring Report.

GCPEA has welcomed the new Security Council resolution and has called on armed forces and non-state armed groups to immediately stop targeting schools, teachers and students for attack and comply with new UN measures to protect education in armed conflict.

GCPEA coalition chair, Zama Coursen-Neff, said: "Attacks on education cost students and teachers their lives, and lead to dramatic decreases in school attendance, leaving untold numbers of children without an education. The Security Council has put militaries and armed groups on notice that these violations will not be tolerated.”

EI Deputy General Secretary, Jan Eastman, said: “Armed conflict and attacks on education destroy not only education institutions but the hopes and potential of generations of children, teachers, academics and education personnel, and on a scale largely unrecognised. This resolution is good news. It offers a means to reverse the alarming growth of violent political and military attacks and  delivering on our collective promise made at the World Education Forum in Dakar 2000 to ensure that schools are ‘respected and protected as sanctuaries and zones of peace’.”

EI continues to engage in multiple cohesive initiatives to ensure that schools are safe sanctuaries and that the right to education is not only respected but upheld. EI urges the international community to take continued action to ensure that education is both protected in conflicts and enabled to realise its potential as a force for peace in the world. EI invites members to engage in monitoring and reporting attacks on education, education personnel and trade unionists, and to add their voices in calling for an end to impunity.

EI’s 2009 Declaration ‘ Schools shall be safe sanctuaries’ provides the vehicle for member organisations to begin that engagement.

The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) steering committee includes the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics, Education Above All, EI, Human Rights Watch, Institute of International Education, Save the Children, UNESCO, UNICEF and UNHCR.