From November 8-9, 2016, Norway, Sierra Leone, Zambia, and the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA)1, with the support of the Save the Children Pan-African and African Union Liaison Office, hosted a workshop focused on the implementation of the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict (the Guidelines)2. Representatives from ministries of defense and education and the national armed forces of 14 of the 17 African states that have already endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration (the Declaration), as well as regional and international peacekeeping and education experts, met to exchange practices and experiences on protecting educational facilities during armed conflict.
The workshop discussed the situations in a number of states directly affected by armed conflict where attacks on students, teachers, and schools have occurred. Participants also considered several states, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, which have policies aimed at preventing the use of schools and universities for military purposes.
This forum allowed state representatives to discuss how governments can meet the commitments in the Safe Schools Declaration and bring the Guidelines into relevant domestic legislation, policies, and operational frameworks. Presentations from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the African Union (AU) demonstrated how different stakeholders can work together to protect schools from attack and prevent their use for military purposes.
The workshop also featured the testing of a draft toolkit on understanding and implementing the Guidelines, which is being developed through a partnership between GCPEA and the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative. This toolkit contains guidance and sample instruments to help states strengthen trainings and practices on the protection of educational facilities from military use and attack. The workshop participants provided feedback on the current draft and offered suggestions for inclusion. The toolkit will be launched in 2017 following testing by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and further consultations.
The implementation of measures discussed during the workshop will be showcased at the Second International Safe Schools Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in March 2017.