Cyprus is the 68th country to join the Safe Schools Declaration
(New York, July 26, 2017) – Cyprus is the 68th country to join the Safe Schools Declaration, an intergovernmental commitment to protect schools, students, and teachers from attack in armed conflict, said the Global Coalition to Protect Education form Attack (GCPEA) today.
With Cyprus’ endorsement, 21 European Union countries—three-quarters of its members—have now joined the growing community of states committed to taking concrete action to protect education during armed conflict.
“The government of Cyprus should be commended for taking the significant step of endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration,” said Diya Nijhowne, GCPEA director. “As a country that has experienced insecurity, it understands the critical role that the continuation of safe education plays in securing peace and stability.”
The United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, established in 1964, continues its operation on the island of Cyprus. Its role is to supervise ceasefire lines, maintain a buffer zone, undertake humanitarian activities, and support the good offices mission of the Secretary-General. Of the 22 countries that currently contribute uniformed personnel to the mission, 12 have also endorsed the Declaration – Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Ireland, Italy, Montenegro, Romania, Slovakia, and Paraguay.
A key component of the Safe Schools Declaration is the commitment to bring the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict into relevant domestic policy and operational frameworks, including in peacekeeping missions.
Schools and universities in conflict zones are regularly used for military purposes by armed forces and armed groups. The effects of military use of educational institutions can be devastating for students, teachers, and their communities, turning schools into targets for attack, depriving children of access to education, and putting their security and that of their teachers at risk.
GCPEA research has shown that armed forces and armed groups have used schools and universities for military purposes such as bases, barracks, firing positions, armories, and detention centers in at least 27 countries experiencing armed conflict and insecurity around the world. The research also shows that, in the same time period, a series of attacks on schools has occurred in at least 27 countries.
“Its endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration is timely in light of Cyprus’ upcoming review by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child of implementation of the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict,” Nijhowne said. “Cyprus is illustrating its determination to build a safe and peaceful future for its children, including by ensuring that schools are safe spaces of learning and growth.”