GCE Statement on occasion of the First ever commemoration of the International Day to Protect Education from Attack

On the occasion of the first International Day to Protect Education from Attack, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in its resolution 74/275 of 12 May 2020, the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) re-affirms the importance of education as a lifesaving human right and as the foundation to building peaceful and resilient societies.

According to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), more than 11,000 attacks on schools, students and educators took place between 2015 and 2019, harming around 21,000 students and educators in at least 70 countries.

The use of schools for military purposes, recruitment of children, murders of teachers, especially female, and sexual attacks perpetrated by armed forces against girls on the way to or from school are prevalent crimes.

Despite international human rights law and international humanitarian law clearly stating that States and the international community are responsible for ensuring the right to education in contexts of emergency, little action has been taken. The gaps to secure education in contexts of disaster, displacement and conflict are evident not only in the early stages of an emergency but also in the provision of humanitarian aid and in peace-building and reconstruction.

The GCE is extremely concerned about the continuation of attacks against students, teachers and education facilities perpetrated by armed forces. The recruitment of children and young people is a despicable practice that must end now! Despite the progress made in some peace dialogues, we note with great concern that the right to education continues to be neither respected nor effectively guaranteed in peace-building processes and is too often left out of the commitment’s agenda of the parties in conflict.

Other historical conflicts that are associated with persistent violence, such as the occupation of territories in Palestine, sadly demonstrate that annexation is a threat, that endangers the assertion of identity and the respect of diversity that lies at the core of education.

Conflict-affected countries account for only 20% of the world’s primary-school-age children but 50% of the world’s out-of-school children. This staggering data can no longer be ignored! The international community has a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable children who live in conflict-ridden societies and are the main victims of violence.

The GCE calls on ALL states to immediately endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and calls on governments to work together to prevent and heavily condemn attacks against schools, students and teachers as well as the use of any form of violence against children, including recruitment.

As Benito Juarez said, “we firmly believe that among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace”. Only education can lead to the realisation of that aspiration.

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The Global Campaign for Education (GCE) is a civil society movement that aims to end exclusion in education. Education is a basic human right, and our mission is to make sure that governments act now to deliver the right of everyone to a free, quality, public education.