GCPEA News: Highlights of 2022

GCPEA, December 21, 2022
A student stands at a desk in a classroom of a school in Chernihiv, Ukraine, that was destroyed by bombing in March 2022. © UNICEF/UN0726022/Ibarra Sánchez

Tragically, attacks by armed forces and armed groups on schools, universities, their students and staff, continued in 2022 and appear to have increased in some countries. Preliminary GCPEA data suggests that attacks on education rose in several countries in 2022, compared to 2021. This finding was also identified by the Office of the Special Representative to the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict.
In Ukraine, over 2,789 educational facilities have been bombed or shelled since the Russian invasion on February 24, according to the Ministry of Education and Science, although this figure has not been verified. Read GCPEA’s statement on Ukraine from March. In Myanmar, the UN documented 320 cases of the use of schools by armed groups, and 260 attacks on education infrastructure or personnel between February 2021 and March 2022.
Despite the surging violence, progress has been made in galvanizing states to safeguard education. In September, Malaysia announced that it will host the Fifth International Conference on the Safe Schools Declaration, together with Argentina, Nigeria, Norway, Spain, and GCPEA. Read the Outcome Report from the Fourth International Conference on the SSD, held in Abuja, Nigeria, and virtually in 2019.

New Endorsements

In 2022, Tunisia, Republic of Congo, and Colombia endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration (SSD), bringing the total number of endorsing states to 116.

Practical Impact of the Safe Schools Declaration

There were advances in several states in implementing the SSD and its Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict in 2022. For example:

  • Nigeria: This month, the Federal Ministry of Finance launched a National Plan on Financing Safe Schools to dedicate specific funding to SSD implementation.  Earlier, Plan International organized a workshop which included an orientation from GCPEA on its  Toolkit for Collecting and Analysing Data on Attacks on Education. As an outcome, a technical committee was set up to develop a national framework for data collection of attacks on education.
  • Burkina Faso: The Government is establishing a technical committee to oversee implementation of the SSD at the national level.
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Following a discussion at a National Summit on the Safe Schools Declaration and Implementing its Guidelines, organized by Save the Children in Septembercivil society and key ministries recommended that a national committee be established to operationalize the SSD.
  • Somalia: The Government is developing a Safe Schools Policy.
  • Sudan: In October, Save the Children convened a workshop in West Darfur in which 29 different governments and non-state actors, national and international organizations, and civil society groups signed a commitment to implement the SSD.

The State-led Implementation Network

The Norway-led Network provides a platform for all endorsing states to exchange good practice and experiences in implementing the SSD. In January, GCPEA organized a “Good Practice Webinar” for the Network on monitoring and reporting attacks on education, in which more than 40 state representatives participated. Ms. Michela Ranieri has now joined GCPEA as the Implementation Network Consultant and will facilitate a series of new webinars and knowledge exchanges over the next year.

Education under Attack 2022 reportlaunch, June 1

GCPEA launched the 2022 edition of its flagship report, Education under Attack, virtually, on June 1. In Geneva, on June 16, GCPEA presented key findings from the report during an event at the Palais des Nations. GCPEA Senior Researchers, Dr. Marika Tsolakis and Dr. Jerome Marston, also wrote an op-ed on the rise of attacks on education in Ukraine.

Ms. Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director, called for accountability for perpetrators of attacks on schools, students, and teachers in her remarks at the launch of Education under Attack 2022 on June 1.
Education under Attack 2022  found that the number of attacks on education and military use of schools and universities increased from 2019 to 2020 by one-third, and continued at this heightened rate in 2021, even as schools and universities around the world closed for prolonged periods during the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 9,000 students, teachers, and academics were harmed, injured, or killed in attacks on education in 2020 and 2021.

UN International Day to Protect Education from Attack, September 9

GCPEA released The Impact of Attacks on Education and Military Use in Myanmar andDr. Jerome Marston published an op-ed in the UN Chronicle, highlighting the importance of safeguarding education in conflict-afflicted areas.

In conjunction with ACT NOW to Protect Education from Attack, held at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, Education Above All, KoBo Toolbox, and UNESCO launched TRACE, the Track Attacks on Education Data Portal, which collects and visualizes data on attacks on schools, students, and educators, including GCPEA’s Education under Attack data.
In Geneva, GCPEA presented key findings and global trends from Education under Attack 2022 and recent cases studies, at the Commemoration of the Third UN International Day to Protect Education from Attack, at the Palais des Nations. Ms. Farida Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, highlighted how attacks can negate the right to education. A photo exhibition organised by Education Above All and the Permanent Mission of Qatar to the UN, showcased the devastation that attacks on education can wreak.

Transforming Education Summit, September 16 – 19

GCPEA released a brief on attacks on higher education, Successfully Transforming Education Requires Protecting It from Attackahead of theTransforming Education Summit that took place during the 77th session of the UN General Assembly.

The SSD featured in one of the main recommendations on Thematic Action Track 1 on Inclusive, equitable, safe and healthy schools:
 Create safe learning spaces to thrive. Governments must prevent violence and bullying in and around schools, attacks on schools and ensure inclusive and accessible universally designed learning spaces, including through the endorsement and full implementation, where applicable, of the Safe Schools Declaration, the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, and the Comprehensive School Safety Framework.
The Call to Action on Education in Crisis Situations, endorsed by 28 states, referenced Education under Attack 2022 data and urged states to adhere to international commitments, including the SSD.

Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas (EWIPA) Conference, November 18

The Political Declaration on Strengthening the Protection of Civilians from the Humanitarian Consequences Arising from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas was opened for endorsement during an international conference hosted by Ireland.

Eighty-three states have now endorsed the EWIPA Declaration, promising to address the devastating impacts of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, including in schools. This is a significant advancement for protecting education from attack as, according to Education under Attack 2022, explosive weapons were used in one-fifth of all reported attacks on education in 2020 and 2021.

Ms. Orlaith Minogue represented GCPEA at the Conference, and shared good practices of states in implementing the SSD at the civil society event, encouraging others to adapt similar measures to their own contexts to better protect education in conflict. Ms. Minogue, the Senior Conflict and Humanitarian Advocacy Adviser at Save the Children, took on the role of GCPEA Chair in January.

In April, ahead of the fourth consultation towards the EWIPA Declaration, GCPEA released Measuring the Impact of Attacks on Education in Palestine, which found that explosive weapons affected at least 305 schools and kindergartens in Palestine between January 2019 and September 2021.
Students from different classes playing during their break in the school yard in a school in Homs City, Syria, in September 2022. © 2022 UNICEF/UN0740045

GCPEA conducted a mid-term review of its 2020-24 strategic plan in June and identified some major advancements over the last two and half years. GCPEA, in collaboration with partners, was able to achieve two of its long-term goals ahead of schedule. The African Union Doctrine on Peace Support Operations, adopted in January 2021, stating that all AU Member States will “ensure that schools are not attacked and used for military purposes,” effectively banned military use of schools in the AU. In addition, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2601 (2021), the first thematic resolution on protecting education from attack. This progress will enable GCPEA to proceed to the next level of advocacy in 2023 and beyond, including encouraging other regional mechanisms to ban military use of schools, and calling on states to operationalize Resolution 2601. Read GCPEA’s statement on the first anniversary of the Resolution. 

In 2023, activities planned include the following:

  • GCPEA will release a scoping study on investigating and prosecuting attacks on education, looking at how these attacks have been brought to criminal courts at the national and international levels, and how to draw on this experience to bring more cases and better achieve justice for victims and deter further attacks.
  • Through the Norway-led SSD Implementation Network, and in cooperation with Spain, GCPEA will organize a second global online training program on implementing the SSD.
  • Also through the Network, GCPEA will deliver an in-person workshop on the SSD, likely in the Sahel region, as well as good practice webinars highlighting ways in which states have implemented the SSD.
  • The final version of the Toolkit for Collecting and Analysing Data on Attacks on Education will be released incorporating lessons learned, including through conducting orientations on the Toolkit. GCPEA will continue these orientations to better equip governments and civil society to document attacks on education.
  • The Toolkit is already informing data collection and analysis for the Education under Attack database, which GCPEA is drawing upon to prepare a scoping paper on deterring attacks by non-state armed groups, and other thematic reports that will be released next year.
  • GCPEA will publish a Guidance Note on Identifying and Reducing Risks related to Attacks on Education along with a note on using the Toolkit to mitigate, prevent, and respond to attacks. These documents aim to strengthen capacity within the education sector to assess risks and respond to attacks.

GCPEA thanks all our donors and partners for their immense support and looks forward to working together closely in the new year to make education safe for all. Wishing you a peaceful 2023.