Opening statement at Safe Schools conference

Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt's opening statement at Safe Schools Declaration, Fourth International Conference.

Mr President,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Norway is proud to co-host this conference with Nigeria, Argentina, Spain, the African Union, and the Global Coalition [to Protect Education from Attack].

In 2015, 37 states came together in Oslo to launch the Safe Schools Declaration. Six years later, 112 states have endorsed it. The high number of African states reflects Africa’s leadership and engagement.

Endorsing the declaration is a political commitment to protect education from attack and military use. It is a commitment to safeguard the right to education during armed conflict. And it is a commitment to protect children and young people from violence and abuse.

Education provides a platform for the future. For the individual, for local communities and for society as a whole.  

Political commitment must be followed by practical implementation. It is well documented: Schools and universities are safer in areas where the Declaration has been implemented. Children and young people are safer when schools and universities are not used for military purposes. It makes it possible for education to continue even in times of conflict.

Strong partnerships are crucial. Increasingly, local and international civil society organisations, states and multilateral organisations are working together. During this conference, we will launch a network platform to facilitate cooperation on implementation.

We must ensure safe and equal access to education, for girls and boys, young men and young women alike. We cannot understand the impact of conflict on communities and individuals without considering the gender dimension.  

Norway works in many ways to strengthen the protection of education.

The Safe Schools Declaration is referenced in the Human Rights Council resolution on the right to education. (tatt ut i videoen)

In the Security Council, we address attacks on education in debates, mandates and resolutions. We work to strengthen compliance with international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian objects. 

We give priority to protection and education in our humanitarian partnerships. In our development cooperation, we invest in education, also in conflict situations.

Our focus is on ensuring the right to education. On child protection. And on education for women and girls. This is also part of our efforts to promote peace and security and reach the Sustainable Development Goals.

Earlier today, Save the Children launched a Children’s Manifesto.  A powerful statement written by more than 300 children living in conflict-affected areas around the world.

The children describe how they live in fear. They call on us to protect their right to education. They call on us to prevent attacks and military use of schools and universities. It is our duty to listen.

So let’s take action now and put the Declaration into practice. 

Thank you.