First International Training on Implementing the Safe Schools Declaration | March 26, 2020 |
States build capacity to protect education from attack at first international training on "Implementing the Safe Schools Declaration"
(New York, 26 March, 2021) – The first-ever comprehensive training on “Implementing the Safe Schools Declaration,” which brought together over 90 representatives from ministries of defense, education, and foreign affairs from 20 countries, is a model for strengthening national capacity to protect education in armed conflict, said the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) today.  The virtual training, which was co-organized by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and GCPEA, took place from February 24th to March 17th, 2021, half a day each week. 

The training stemmed from a commitment by the Spanish Government at the Third International Conference on Safe Schools, held in Palma de Mallorca in May 2019, to convene a training course to propel effective implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration and exchange good practice in safeguarding education. Through a series of presentations, practical exercises, and discussions, the training demonstrated how attacks on education can be better prevented and damage mitigated, including by improving data collection and accountability, and by examining the different ways that boys and men, and girls and women, are affected by attacks. 

At the training, members of armed forces discussed how they are using the 
Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict. 
Implementing the Guidelines is a commitment within the Declaration.  A delegate from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) shared that the Central African Republic criminalized the occupation of schools in 2019. A representative from Mali explained that its armed forces use prefabricated military buildings to avoid using schools for military purposes, amongst other examples.   

“The Safe Schools Declaration is a comprehensive practical tool for addressing attacks on education and military use of educational infrastructure,” said Diya Nijhowne, GCPEA Executive Director.

“Over the four weeks of training, states explored pragmatic ways of implementing the Declaration, such as setting up national coordination mechanisms, developing action plans, and strengthening inter-ministerial cooperation, to more systematically protect education from attack.”  
The urgent need to act to keep educators and learners safe during conflict and insecurity was highlighted at the training. GCPEA’s research identified approximately 11,000 reported attacks on education or military use worldwide, between 2015 and 2019. During the same period, armed forces and armed groups reportedly used schools or universities for military purposes in 34 countries around the globe. 

The figures under-represent the true extent of attacks on education due to limitations in monitoring and reporting. At the training, GCPEA presented its Toolkit for Collecting and Analyzing Data on Attacks on Education, an innovative new  guide for governments and civil society organizations to improve data collection, analysis, and reporting.  Strengthening collection of data on attacks on education is not only a commitment within the Declaration, it is at the root of all the other commitments: accurate data is critical to inform prevention and response measures as well as ensure accountability.   

Amongst the outcomes of the training is a commitment by the Government of Spain to hold similar capacity building programs in the future as part of a network of endorsing states being set up by Norway to strengthen implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration. GCPEA is supporting the network and will support future trainings.  As the community of endorsing states continues to grow –Ghana joined the Declaration in November and Algeria in February, bringing the number of endorsing states to 107– the potential for practical support in implementing the Declaration to effect concrete change, becomes even greater.  

Nigeria will host the Fourth International Conference on Safe Schools in Abuja, and virtually, on October 25-27, 2021, giving states the opportunity to showcase the lessons they have learned from the training and the progress they have made in transforming the Declaration commitments into reality.  

“Political commitment is critical to protecting education but must be accompanied by capacity-building, peer-to-peer learning, and concrete action if the transformative potential of the Safe Schools Declaration is to be achieved,” said Ms. Nijhowne.

“By sharing knowledge and experience states can encourage and mobilize each other to strengthen the national systems, legislation, and policies needed to implement the Declaration and better secure the right to education for all.” 
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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, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NoVo Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC), a project of Education Above All, and UNICEF. GCPEA also receives support from donors who wish to remain anonymous.

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