A unanimous Security Council will strengthen protection of education

The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution on protection of education in conflict zones. Niger and Norway sponsored the resolution and led the negotiations.

‘The unanimous adoption by the Security Council of a resolution to protect education in situations of conflict is an important development. All children and young people have an equal right to education, even those living in situations of war. Safeguarding the right to education during a conflict is essential to rebuild societies in the wake of conflict, and to reduce the risk of lost generations,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt.  

This is the first separate resolution on the protection of education and education facilities in conflict zones to be adopted by the Security Council.

‘By adopting this resolution, the Security Council is sending a clear message that safe access to education is also a key area of international peace and security. It is essential that the UN member states and parties to conflict follow up the resolution,’ said Ms Huitfeldt.

The resolution has been co-sponsored by 98 UN member states, which underscores that there is broad international support for strengthening efforts to protect education.  

Attacks on schools are one of six grave violations of international law against children identified and condemned by the Security Council. The UN General Assembly has previously adopted a resolution on ensuring children’s access to education in situations of crisis and conflict. The Security Council has adopted thematic resolutions that have included access to education in conflict zones.

The unanimous adoption of the broad resolution by the Security Council takes this issue a major step forward and places it higher on the international agenda. Among other things, the Security Council urges parties to conflict to facilitate safe access to education, in line with their obligations under international law. The resolution emphasises the particularly vulnerable situation of girls and women. The Council also calls on UN member states to implement concrete measures to prevent attacks on, and military use of, schools and universities, which endanger the lives of children, students and teachers, and rob them of educational opportunities.

‘By helping make schools and universities safer for children and young people today, we are protecting not only the future of our children, but also our common future,’ said Ms Huitfeldt.

Attacks on education facilities and loss of educational opportunities for children and young people in conflict situations have widespread impacts. Since 2009, there have been verified attacks on schools and universities in more than 93 countries. Between 2015 and 2019, more than 11 000 attacks were reported in at least 93 countries. Schools and universities have been bombed and burned, and more than 22 000 pupils, students and teachers have been maimed, killed, abducted or arbitrarily detained.

Norway is among the countries that invests the most in safeguarding education for refugees and others affected by crisis. Norway led the work on the Safe Schools Declaration as part of its ongoing focus on preventing attacks on and military use of schools in order to ensure safe access to education. The Declaration was launched in Oslo in 2015 with the support of 37 states, and has now been endorsed by 112 countries.