Serbia is 67th Country to Endorse the Safe Schools Declaration
(New York, July 18, 2017) – By endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration, Serbia has become the 67th country to join a political commitment by states to protect education in armed conflict, said the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). The other countries of the former Yugoslavia that have already endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration are Montenegro and Slovenia.
“We welcome the strong lead which Serbia has shown in the region by endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration,” said Diya Nijhowne, GCPEA director. “In view of the tragic history of conflict, we hope that all the countries in the former Yugoslavia will soon follow Serbia’s example in protecting schools, universities, students, and educators from targeted attacks.”
By endorsing the Declaration, countries commit to strengthen monitoring and reporting of attacks on education; improve accountability for attacks and provide support to victims; promote “conflict sensitive” policies that ensure that the content and delivery of education do not become drivers of conflict; and take steps to support the continuation of safe education, including by rebuilding schools. In addition, countries commit to endorse and use the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict to restrict the use of education institutions as barracks and bases, weapons stores, interrogation and detention centers, and for other military purposes. Such uses by armed parties may cause damage to education institutions, leading to extended school closings, and may make schools targets of attack by opposing forces, placing the lives of students and teachers at severe risk.
The Guidelines were developed in a process spearheaded by GCPEA and finalized in a state-led process headed by Norway and Argentina in December 2014. On May 29, 2015, the Safe Schools Declaration was opened for endorsement at the First International Conference on Safe Schools in Oslo. The Second International Conference on Safe Schools was held in Buenos Aires in March this year. Support for the Declaration has built considerable momentum over the last two years: in his May 2017 report to the Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the UN Secretary-General urged all member states to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration.
“There is now global consensus on the need to protect schools and universities and safeguard the lives of students and educators during conflict and insecurity,” said Nijhowne. “Countries like Serbia, that have experienced the devastation of war in not too distant memory, are particularly concerned to maintain the sanctity of education, and are taking action to do just that by endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration – others should join them.”