Belgium supports the Safe Schools Declaration

Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Development Cooperation & Foreign Trade, March 29, 2017

Today is the second and last day of the Second Safe Schools Conference which is taking place in the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires. The Safe Schools Declaration is a political engagement seeking to offer students, pupils and education personnel a better protection during an armed conflict.

Following the recent international Conference on Children in Armed Conflict, that took place at the Egmont Palace in Brussels on 10 February, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders has decided that our country will participate to this conference and formally endorse the declaration. By doing so, Belgium is supporting the efforts made by a global coalition, set up by Norway and Argentina, and which gathers many countries as well as representatives from different organizations. This coalition aims at putting this issue on the international agenda. 

Through this declaration and the accompanying guidelines ‘for protecting schools and universities from military use’, Belgium supports the strengthening of international humanitarian law and human rights. This declaration seeks to guarantee the right to education during an armed conflict. It also serves as a substantial complement to humanitarian law which already offers a specific protection to pupils and students and to educational facilities in the case of a direct armed attack. Finally, this initiative fully coincides with the objectives of the Children and Armed Conflict Working Group of the United Nations Security Council.

Didier Reynders attaches great importance to the operational implementation of this declaration. In consultation with Defense Minister Steven Vandeput, it was decided that the declaration and the guidelines will inspire the planning and execution of Belgian military operations. This will be done in total conformity with our present obligations under international humanitarian law.  Our country will keep a close contact with the allies who have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration in order to complement the existing military guidelines. Belgium will also launch an appeal to all possible parties to an armed conflict to abide by the obligations under international humanitarian law.