09.07.2019 - UNESCO Office in Brussels

UNESCO discusses the protection of education from attack in a seminar on Children and Armed Conflict


Protecting children from armed conflict is paramount for preventing future conflicts, breaking cycles of violence, and achieving sustainable development. Yet, violence against children in times of armed conflict is on the rise.

In an effort to discuss how to ensure the implementation of existing frameworks that protect children from armed conflict, UNESCO participated in a seminar on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) to discuss mainstreaming opportunities for this particular issue in both EU and UN actions.

The seminar, organised by the Permanent Representations of Italy and Belgium to the EU, brought together representatives from UN agencies and the EU, as well as selected members of the civil society. The Italian and Belgian PSC Ambassadors, Luca Franchetti Pardo and Francois Cornet d’Elzius, opened the discussion by stressing the importance of mainstreaming child protection during conflict into international activities and mentioned the European Union as an important force multiplier for the realisation of the CAAC agenda.

During her intervention, Louise Haxthausen, Director of the UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels, highlighted UNESCO’s commitment and support to the mandate of the Special Representative by focusing on a common goal: to keep education free from attack.

When schools become targets and strategic assets of war, children are deprived of their primary right to education – one of the main factors for building resilient and developed societies. UNESCO consistently advocates for Member States to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and works actively with the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, enhances capacities to engage with and support the Country Task Forces on Monitoring and Reporting on the violations covered by the mandate of the Special Representative, and – beyond the mandate of the Children and Armed Conflict Agenda – focuses on attacks on higher education.

As enshrined in the SDG4 thematic monitoring framework, attacks on education during armed conflict are now specifically recognised not only as an issue of international humanitarian law and human rights, but also as a key challenge to sustainable development. With armed conflict remaining the main obstacle for children’s and young people’s access to education, the SDG4 indicator monitors the number of attacks on students, personnel and institutions. Here, adequate data collection is key to ensure effective response, to hold perpetrators accountable, and to prevent future attacks. However, although channels for monitoring exist, reporting systems on the ground remain weak due to limited accessibility of conflict areas, threats against individuals with information, and a lack of standardised definitions and disaggregated data collection. UNESCO considers this work as critical to better connect the dots between child protection and education.

To draw particular attention to the protection of education from attacks, UNESCO will organise a high-level meeting on the sidelines of the July 2019 UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. The meeting aims at raising awareness for the strengthening of better data collection and evaluation, as well as encouraging and inform action among governments and partners to strengthen data collection.

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