‘Act to Protect’: UN launches guide to preventing attacks against schools, hospitals

UN News Centre, May 21, 2014

This story was originally posted by the UN News Center.

Every child has a right to education and health, the United Nations today said launching a guidance note to assist the people monitoring, reporting and working to prevent attacks against schools and hospitals.

“We see that attacks on schools, hospitals and associated staff have become an all-too-familiar aspect of today’s conflicts,” the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui said at today’s launch.

“We have seen it, we know what it is, and now we have to stop it.”

The Guidance Note on Attacks against Schools and Hospitals provides practical information for the UN and its partners on how to implement aspects of Security Council resolution 1998. Adopted in 2011, the resolution gives the UN a mandate to identify and list the armed forces and groups who attack schools or hospitals, or protected persons in relation to schools and hospitals.

The publication of this guidance is the first step in a program of training and technical accompaniment by all agencies and organizations present with us today, Ms. Zerrougui said referring to partners who helped to draft the guide the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

The document spells out how these UN agencies and partners can assist parties to conflict to more fully respect children’s rights to education and health care with practical activities. It also provides examples of good practices, which may be followed in strengthening Government response.

“This guidance is a call to increase our partnerships with both traditional and new partners involved in the protection of education and healthcare, including a whole range of civil society partners,” Ms. Zerrougui said.

In an age where the 2015 development goals are largely within reach, we cannot allow classrooms of children to suffer in silence, she stressed.

Irina Bokova, chief of UNESCO, and Yoka Brandt, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF played a key role in drafting the note and participated in the launch, as did WHO chief Margaret Chan, who delivered a video-message highlighting the links between children’s health and education.

“Attacks on schools disrupt the opportunity for children to realize their full health potential,” Dr. Chan said, while attacks on hospitals greatly diminish to provide health care, including emergency care at a time when it is needed the most.

Ms. Bokova called the guidance “a tool to advocate for the right to education during armed conflict and as an operational instrument to ensure schools remain protected spaces”.

She said it was important to support teachers so they could cope with the challenges of teaching and learning in situations of crisis.

Ambassador Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg who holds a Security Council seat and Deputy Permanent Representative Heiko Thomas of Germany were among other speakers participating.

Earlier this year, the Security Council reiterated its strong commitment to protecting children in conflict. In resolution 2143, it strongly condemned all violations of international law involving the recruitment and use of children by parties to armed conflict, as well as their re-recruitment, killing and maiming, rape and other sexual violence, abductions, attacks against schools or hospitals and denial of humanitarian access by parties to armed conflict.

The 15-member body also welcomed the Children, Not Soldiers campaign initiated by the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and UNICEF to end the recruitment and use of children by Government armed forces in conflict by 2016.