Armenia and Malta, 60th and 61st countries to endorse Safe Schools Declaration

Education International has welcomed the move by Armenia and Malta to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, committing itself to protect students, teachers, schools, and universities during times of war.

Education International (EI) and its affiliates congratulate Armenia and Malta’s governments for becoming respectively on 22 and 24 March the 60th and 61st countries 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.

International support

Armenia’s endorsement means that the majority of Council of Europe member states have now endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration. Also, Malta’s endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration is particularly timely as it currently holds the presidency of the European Union.

This 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.

Background

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. This latest endorsement occurs just before the Second International Safe Schools Conference, to be co-hosted by the Argentine ministries of foreign affairs and defense in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 28-29 March.The Conference will gather representatives of over 60 states to discuss ways to better implement the Declaration, including by incorporating the Guidelines to Protect Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict into military doctrine; improving monitoring and reporting of attacks; investigating education-related violations of humanitarian and human rights law; supporting conflict-sensitive education policies; and introducing measures to better ensure the continuation of safe education during conflict.

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