The Government of Nigeria, together with the Governments of Argentina, Norway, and Spain, the African Union Commission, and the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack hosted the 4th International Conference on the Safe Schools Declaration on 25–27 October, in Abuja, and virtually. The previous conferences were held in Oslo, Norway, in 2015; Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2017; and Palma de Mallorca, Spain, in 2019. The aim of the Abuja Conference was to take stock and review progress in implementing the Safe Schools Declaration (SSD) and the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict (“the Guidelines”), and to encourage commitment and action in protecting education from attack.
With the theme of Ensuring Safe Education for All: From Commitment to Practice, the Conference was a forum for states, and multilateral and civil society organisations to present their strategies, progress, and challenges in making the promise of safe education into a reality, and to exchange and mutually learn from these experiences.
The Conference was also an opportunity for states to hold each other accountable for advancing their commitment to implement the SSD. At the time of the Conference, 112 member states had endorsed the SSD, with many having had six years to put the Declaration commitments into practice. The Abuja conference therefore focused on identifying good practice in implementing key commitments of the Safe Schools Declaration and highlighting how this good practice could be strengthened and adapted to different contexts. The goal was to move beyond endorsement and expression of commitment to encourage states to accelerate implementation of the SSD.
Although the Abuja Conference had an international focus, because it was the first to be held on the African continent and in a region severely affected by attacks on education, the experiences of Nigeria and the Sahel region in addressing attacks on education were highlighted. Promising practices by the African Union itself, as well as countries across the continent and around the globe, were drawn upon to facilitate a comparative perspective and cross-country and cross-regional learning and exchange.
The overarching goal was to strengthen implementation of the SSD by achieving the following specific objectives:
Share good practice in implementing key commitments in the Declaration to inspire other states to adapt the practice within their own context. In particular, to share promising practice in achieving the following SSD commitments: (a) Use the Guidelines and bring them into domestic policy and operational frameworks as far as possible and appropriate; (b) Seek to ensure the continuation of education during armed conflict; (c)
Investigate allegations of violations or applicable national and international law and, where appropriate, duly prosecute perpetrators; and (d) Provide assistance to survivors.
Forge global cooperation and strengthen coordination in protecting education and deterring military use of schools and universities by bringing together education, defence, justice and foreign affairs ministries, and multilateral and civil society organisations to discuss prevention and response measures.
Identify actions governments can take to better achieve accountability for attacks on education and justice for survivors by building and strengthening international and national legal mechanisms.