The Safe Schools Declaration

2 Min ⏰ 

On the occasion of the arrival of Sep. 9, International Day to Protect Education from Attack, and in the season of reopening schools and universities in many countries, we are rereading one of the crucial documents related to the security of schools and higher education institutions.

The Safe Schools Declaration

In 2015, the governments of Norway and Argentina led a process among the United Nations Member States to develop the Safe Schools Declaration, an inter-governmental political agreement dedicated to protecting education in armed conflict.

The Safe Schools Declaration outlines a set of commitments to strengthen the protection of education from attack and restrict the use of schools and universities for military purposes. It seeks to ensure the continuity of safe education during armed conflict. The Declaration was opened for countries to endorse at the First International Conference on Safe Schools in Oslo, Norway, in May 2015.

In March 2017, the government of the Argentine Republic hosted the Second International Conference on Safe Schools, further building upon the development of a global community dedicated to protecting education in armed conflict. In May 2019, the government of Spain hosted the Third International Conference on Safe Schools in Palma de Mallorca, and in October 2021, the government of Nigeria hosted the Fourth International Conference on the Safe Schools Declaration in Abuja.

To date, 114 states around the world have joined this international political agreement.

Support for the Safe Schools Declaration has come from the highest levels within the UN, notably from UN Secretary-General António Guterres; former High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein; and Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba – each of whom has urged all UN Member States to endorse the Declaration.

The Declaration builds a community of nations committed to respecting the civilian nature of schools and developing and sharing examples of good practices for protecting schools and universities during armed conflict. It offers guidance on concrete measures that armed forces and armed non-state actors can take to deter the military use of educational facilities, reduce the risk of attack, and mitigate the impact of attacks and military use when they do occur.

Countries are also committed to collecting or facilitating the collection of data on attacks on education, investigating and prosecuting war crimes involving education, and providing assistance to victims.

By endorsing the Declaration, States also commit to restoring access to a safe education and to developing education systems that are conflict-sensitive and promote respect between social or ethnic groups.

The Safe Schools Declaration is a framework for collaboration and exchange, and endorsing countries meet on a regular basis to review the implementation of the Declaration.