Education International welcomes the move by Serbia to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, a commitment to protect students, teachers, schools, and universities during times of war.
Serbia has become on 18 July the 67th country to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, joining a political commitment by states to protect education in armed conflict, said the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). The other countries of the former Yugoslavia that have already endorsed the Declaration are Montenegro and Slovenia.
Countries commit to strengthen monitoring and reporting of attacks on education; improve accountability for attacks and provide support to victims; promote “conflict sensitive” policies that ensure that the content and delivery of education do not become drivers of conflict; and take steps to support the continuation of safe education, including by rebuilding schools.
In addition, they commit to endorse and use the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict to restrict the use of education institutions as barracks and bases, weapons stores, interrogation and detention centers, and for other military purposes. Such uses by armed parties may cause damage to education institutions, leading to extended school closings, and may make schools targets of attack by opposing forces, placing the lives of students and teachers at severe risk.
The Guidelines were developed in a process spearheaded by GCPEA and finalised in a state-led process headed by Norway and Argentina in December 2014. On 29 May 2015, the Safe Schools Declaration was opened for endorsement at the First International Conference on Safe Schools in Oslo. The Second International Conference on Safe Schools was held in Buenos Aires in March 2017.
Support for the Declaration has built considerable momentum over the last two years: in his May 2017 report to the Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the UN Secretary-General urged all member states to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration.
The GCPEA is a unique coalition of international organisations, including Human Rights Watch, the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund, Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict, Save the Children, the Scholars at Risk Network, UNHCR, UNICEF, and UNESCO.