Senior UN official urges States to ensure inviolability of schools in times of conflict

25 June 2015

Schools and universities must remain immune to the violence wrought by global conflicts, the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, has affirmed as she urged Member States to commit to safeguarding places of learning from the ravages of war.

“While some claim there is a military logic to using schools, Governments and military commanders must also be cognizant of the grave repercussions such commandeering has on children’s right to education,” Ms. Zerrougui declared in a statement delivered on her behalf at a Human Rights Council side-event in Geneva yesterday.

“At best, the military’s presence arguably dilutes, and can even dispel the feeling for children that their school is their sanctuary where they can exercise their right to education – especially in locations where conflict and confusion are sadly more the norm than the exception,” she added.

The Special Representative’s appeal comes as she campaigns for Member States to sign the recently completed Safe Schools Declaration and Guidelines which aim to protect schools and universities from military use during times of armed conflict. The Declaration has already received 46 endorsements.

In addition, the Security Council recently reaffirmed its commitment to the issue of safe schools stating in its Resolution 2225 on the protection of children in armed conflict that it encourages Member States to take concrete measures to deter the use of schools by armed forces and groups.

“I can assure the participants attending this present event that I and my office will strongly advocate on behalf of children in conflict situations to persuade as many other Member States as we can to throw their support behind the initiative, and to commit to the Guidelines so that we may in turn assure children everywhere that the school they attend is a safe one,” Ms. Zerrougui’s statement concluded.


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