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Practical Impact of the Safe Schools Declaration

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The Safe Schools Declaration and the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict (the Guidelines) have succeeded in highlighting the issue of attacks on students, teachers, schools, and universities, and the military use of schools and universities as a global problem, and represent a coordinated international political response to address this problem. The Safe Schools Declaration was opened for endorsement in May 2015, and as of September 23, 2019, had been endorsed by 96 countries.

Downward Trends in Incidents of Military Use of Schools

• The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) found that the overall reported incidents of military use of schools and universities declined between 2015 and 2018 in the 12 countries that endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration in 2015, and experienced at least one reported incident of military use of schools during the same period (Afghanistan, the Central African Republic (CAR), Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Palestine, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan).

— Based on UN, NGO, and media sources, GCPEA found at least 160 reported incidents of military use of schools and universities in 2015, as compared to at least 80 reported incidents in 2018, among these countries.

— GCPEA found that reports of incidents of military use of schools and universities decreased in six of the 12 countries during the same time period (Afghanistan, CAR, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan).

— In two of the 12 countries, reported incidents of military use remained the same (Palestine and Sudan); only one country saw an increase (Niger) during the same time period.

— Reports of military use of schools or universities were few and infrequent in three of the 12 countries (Kenya, Lebanon, and Mozambique), and thus GCPEA was unable to determine any increase or decrease during 2015-2018.

• GCPEA has not identified any reports of military use of schools or universities by UN peacekeeping forces occurring since early 2017.

Heightened International Standards on Military Use of Schools

• In June 2015, a month after the launch of the Safe Schools Declaration, the UN Security Council for the first time encouraged all member states “to take concrete measures to deter such [military] use of schools by armed forces and armed groups.”1 In July 2018, the Security Council repeated this call.2

• The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations developed a child protection policy that strengthens its policy banning use of educational facilities by peacekeepers, and notes that UN peace operations have an obligation to promote and adhere to the Guidelines.

• The first public draft of the Guidelines was presented to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in June 2013. In the years since, three UN treaty bodies have made recommendations to 16 countries on strengthening protections for schools from military use, including to CAR the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, and Thailand. (In contrast to five such recommendations in all previous years.)