On March 2014, the UN Security Council held an Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict and unanimously adopted this resolution setting out practical steps to combat violations against children in armed conflict, including their right to education. An important element in this resolution is the reference to the use of schools by armed forces.
Francis M. Deng, the Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons (1992-2004), developped these guidelines in 1998. It is a set of 30 recommendations, which define who Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are, outline the large body of existing international law protecting people’s basic rights, and describe the responsibility of states. Although not legally binding, they constitute a comprehensive minimum standard for the treatment of IDPs and are being applied by a growing number of states and institutions. They may also help empower IDPs themselves by providing them with information about their rights as citizens of their own country. Principle 23 is about the right to education.
The Safe Schools Declaration is an inter-governmental political commitment that provides countries the opportunity to express support for protecting students, teachers, schools, and universities from attack during times of armed conflict; the importance of the continuation of education during armed conflict; and the implementation of concrete measures to deter the military use of schools.
By joining the Safe Schools Declaration, states commit to undertake several common-sense steps to make it less likely that students, teachers, schools, and universities will be attacked, and to mitigate the negative consequences when such attacks occur.
These measures include:
- collecting reliable data on attacks and military use of schools and universities
- providing assistance to victims of attacks
- investigating allegations of violations of national and international law and prosecuting perpetrators where appropriate
- developing and promoting 'conflict sensitive' approaches to education
- seeking to continue education during armed conflict
- supporting the UN's work on the children and armed conflict agenda
- using the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, and bringing them into domestic policy and operational frameworks as far as possible and appropriate
The Declaration is also a framework for collaboration and exchange, and endorsing states agree to meet on a regular basis to review implementation of the Declaration and use of the Guidelines.
This document is written to be readily accessible to a non-legal audience and so to provide a stand-alone insight into the three relevant areas international law, and the potential of that law, in protecting education during insecurity and armed conflict.