Botswana is 66th Country to Endorse the Safe Schools Declaration

GCPEA Press Release, June 15, 2017

(New York, June 15, 2017) – Botswana has become the 66th country to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, joining the one third of UN member states that have already signed on to this commitment to safeguard education during armed conflict, said the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). Botswana’s endorsement brings the number of African Union endorsing states to 18, also one third of its members. 

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council has urged all member states to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, recognizing the pivotal role that education plays in bringing stability to the continent. Botswana hosts the South African Development Community (SADC), making its endorsement particularly important for the region.

“Botswana’s endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration, just ahead of the Day of the African Child, which remembers a massacre of Soweto students protesting to protect their right to education, is not just symbolic,” said Diya Nijhowne, GCPEA director. “The commitment of Botswana, and many of its neighbors, to ensuring safe education for its young people, will help accelerate economic and social development in the region and promote peace and security.”

According to GCPEA’s latest research, since 2013, in at least 27 countries around the world, including 12 in Africa, schools and universities have been systematically bombed and burned, or students and education staff deliberately killed, maimed, raped, abducted, or recruited into armed parties at, or on the way to, school or university. Also in at least 27 countries, including 13 in Africa, schools and universities have been used for military purposes, such as barracks and bases, weapons stores, and detention centers by armed parties, converting them into targets for attack and placing the lives of those within them at risk. By joining the Safe Schools Declaration, countries commit to taking concrete action to protect against these attacks and military use of schools and universities. 

The Safe Schools Declaration, which was developed in a state-led process headed by Norway and Argentina, was opened for endorsement in Oslo on May 29, 2015. In his May 2017 report to the Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the UN Secretary General urged member states to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration. 

“Countries should heed the UN Secretary General’s call to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and, like Botswana, join the rapidly expanding community of states committed to ensuring that schools and universities are sanctuaries for learning, even during war,” said Nijhowne. “Education is the key to development and prosperity, and peace and stability will be short-lived if it is threatened or denied.”