UNSC 2601 | November 2, 2022 |
Statement by GCPEA Executive Director, Diya Nijhowne, on the Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 2601

Parties to Armed Conflict should take action to implement the Resolution on the Protection of Education during Armed Conflict
A survivor of the May 8, 2021, bombing of Sayed Al-Shuhada school in Kabul, Afghanistan, reads a book a week after the attack. At least 85 civilians were killed and over 240 were wounded, the majority of whom were reported to be schoolgirls ages 11 to 18.
© UNICEF/UN0464832/UNICEF Afghanistan
(New York, November 2, 2022) – The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) is alarmed by a recent spate of attacks on schools and universities, and their students and staff, around the world. In late September, a school was bombed in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing 20 people and injuring dozens of students, many of whom were adolescent girls. In early October, an airstrike hit a school in northern Ethiopia, killing at least 50 people who were sheltering inside. In Ukraine,  airstrikes recently hit several cities at a time when children were on their way to school. And just this week-end, the Ministry of Education in Mogadishu, Somalia, was attacked as students were picking up their high school certificates. At least 121 people were killed.
In light of these unconscionable attacks, we call on parties to armed conflict to take further action to safeguard education during armed conflict. Specifically, Member States should implement UN Security Council Resolution 2601 (2021), the first thematic resolution on the protection of education during armed conflict, which was adopted a year ago.
Led by Norway and Niger, and supported by an unprecedented 99 co-sponsors, Resolution 2601 condemns attacks on schools and educational facilities and their military use, urges the safeguarding of the right to education, and calls on Member States to develop domestic legal frameworks to protect schools, children, and teachers during and after armed conflict. The Resolution builds on UN Security Council Resolutions 1998 (2011), 2143 (2014), 2225 (2015), and 2427 (2018), which also strongly condemn military use of schools and call for Members States to deter this practice.
Since 2015, 115 States have already committed to protecting education in armed conflict by endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration, a non-binding political commitment led by Norway and Argentina. Resolution 2601 complements the Safe Schools Declaration; it acknowledges efforts made by Member States to implement the Declaration and provides all States—regardless of their endorsement of the Declaration—with a framework to address attacks on education and the military use of educational facilities.
Resolution 2601 calls on all parties to armed conflict to safeguard, protect, respect, and promote the right to education, including in armed conflict, and specifically calls on Member States to develop measures for armed forces to avoid using schools for military purposes, draft domestic laws to prevent and address attacks on schools and education facilities, take practical measures to facilitate access to and the continuation of education, and investigate and appropriately prosecute perpetrators of attacks, among other actions. 
In line with the Safe Schools Declaration, its Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict (the Guidelines) and the Resolution, at least twelve Governments have changed their military manuals or doctrine to include explicit protections for education facilities. All Governments, regardless of whether they experience attacks on education or military use, should make similar changes to their manuals and doctrine to prevent future occurrences and set strong international precedent.
Other parties to armed conflict have gone further to protect education. For instance, in 2020, the Government of the Central African Republic adopted its new Child Protection Code, which effectively criminalizes attacks on schools and their use by parties to conflict. Similarly, the Government of Mali is working on a draft law to protect schools and universities during armed conflict, which, if adopted, will also ban the military use of educational facilities. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) issued a military directive to protect schools and education by prohibiting the military use of schools by its forces in 2020. The military directive follows the vacating of 10 schools by the SDF as the result of continued advocacy by the UN and partners. In addition, in 2018 and 2019, three armed groups signed Action Plans with the UN Office of SRSG CAAC, which covers four grave violations against children, including attacks on schools.

Also in line with the Resolution, perpetrators of attacks on education have been put on trial at the national level, including in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burkina Faso.
In spite of this progress, GCPEA’s Education under Attack 2022 report details rising rates of attacks on education and military use globally over the past two years, including a staggering 9,000 students and teachers who were injured, killed, arrested, or harmed as a result. We remain deeply concerned by the acute and enduring impacts of such attacks, particularly on female students and educators.

We urge Member States to move from words to action by implementing Resolution 2601. The Fifth International Conference on the Safe Schools Declaration, to be hosted by Malaysia in 2023, will be an opportunity for States to share good practice in implementing this milestone Resolution, and encourage others to take similar action to save lives and protect the right to education.
Action to change behavior should start at the national level. GCPEA urges all parties to armed conflict to support implementation of Resolution 2601 by:
  • Developing and adopting policies, legislation, and national action plans that protect education during conflict. Parties should develop laws and policies restricting the use of schools for military purposes, including by incorporating the Guidelines into military doctrine, operational frameworks, codes of conduct, and trainings; and
  • Strengthening monitoring and reporting of attacks on education and the military use of schools and universities to inform prevention and response measures, including by using GCPEA’s Toolkit for Collecting and Analyzing Data on Attacks on Education
Member States should also:
  • Endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and implement it in a gender-responsive manner, taking into account the specific ways female students and educators are targeted and impacted by attacks on education;
  • Draft, adopt, and implement national legislation that explicitly criminalizes attacks on educational facilities and includes frameworks for investigating incidents, punitive judicial measures for perpetrators, and reparations for victims and survivors of attacks; and
  • Ensure safe and quality education for all students during armed conflict, including by working with school and university communities to develop gender-responsive strategies to reduce the risk of attacks; comprehensive safety and security plans in case attacks occur; and alternative education opportunities so that learning can continue even if schools are closed.
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The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), was formed in 2010 by organizations working in the fields of education in emergencies and conflict affected contexts, higher education, protection, and international human right and humanitarian law that were concerned about ongoing attack on educational institutions, their students, and staff in countries affected by conflict and insecurity. GCPEA is a coalition that includes United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations. GPCEA is a project of the Tides Center, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

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GCPEA is grateful for the generous support of its donors, past and present, including Columbia University’s Program on Forced Migration and Health, Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NoVo Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC), a project of the Education Above All Foundation, UNESCO, UNICEF, and an anonymous donor. 

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