Protecting civilians in armed conflict
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Conference in Buenos Aires: schools and education must be protected in armed conflict

27th May 2017 | Child protection

education

On 28-29 March, Geneva Call’s President, Elisabeth Decrey Warner, was invited to speak in a high-level panel discussion at the Second International Safe Schools Conference that took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The conference gathered 220 representatives from 82 countries to discuss the implementation of the Safe School Declaration which has been endorsed by 66 countries, and is aimed at protecting students, teachers, schools and universities during armed conflict.

Elisabeth Decrey Warner shared Geneva Call’s experience on engaging armed non-State actors (ANSA) on the protection of education from attacks. “There is a need to sensitize, engage and train ANSAs. Most of them agree that education is essential, but very often they do not have the knowledge of the rules nor the know-how to put procedures in place to protect it” insisted Elisabeth Decrey Warner at the conference. “It is also important to initiate a debate on the provision of education in areas controlled by ANSAs”. The legal standards that apply to ANSAs with respect to their obligations on education and the possible response of the international community should be further discussed. More research and awareness-raising certainly need to be undertaken.

This conference was also a good opportunity for Geneva Call to show the challenges faced by ANSAs to protect schools and education in conflict situations but also the achievements that some ANSAs reached. According to a recent research conducted by Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC) and Geneva Call, there are various ANSAs who provide education in the territories they control.

Moreover, 19 ANSAs have pledged to avoid using schools for military purposes as signatories to Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict. Geneva Call has also actively disseminated the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict among more than 50 ANSAs worldwide and promoted their implementation.

A research by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) has found that since 2013, armed forces and ANSAs have used schools and universities as bases, barracks, firing positions, armories, and detention centers in at least 24 countries experiencing armed conflict around the world.