Germany is 75th Country to Join Safe Schools Declaration

GCPEA Press Release, May 24, 2018

(May 24, 2018 – New York) Ambassador Ulrich Seidenberger of Germany announced his government’s endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration on May 22, at a reception in Geneva hosted by Ambassador Brattskar of Norway and Ambassador Foradori of Argentina, to mark three years since their governments launched the political commitment to protect education in armed conflict, said the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack.  

With Germany, 75 countries have now endorsed the Declaration, thereby agreeing to take specific steps to reduce the risk and impact of attacks on schools, universities, their students, and staff in war.

“The imperative to protect education from targeted and indiscriminate attacks and ensure the continuation of safe education in armed conflict is now well established in the consciences and behavior of growing numbers of armed forces and governments,” said Diya Nijhowne, GCPEA director. “The Safe Schools Declaration is also widely recognized as a key instrument for affecting this change.”

Such change is sorely needed. The recently released 2018 edition of GCPEA’s report, Education under Attack, found that over the last five years, attacks on education have worsened, occurring in more countries, and intensifying in some, with nine countries experiencing more than 1,000 incidents of attacks on, or military use of, schools and universities, or more than 1,000 students and teachers harmed. 

In total from 2013-2017, there were over 12,700 attacks, in which more than 21,000 students, teachers, academics, and other education personnel were either physically harmed or threatened with physical harm.

Moreover, schools and universities were used as barracks and bases, weapons stores, training grounds, detention and torture centers and for other military purposes in 29 countries in the last five years. In addition to disrupting education, military use by armed parties can make schools targets of attack by opposing forces, and may put students at risk of death, severe injury, child recruitment, sexual exploitation and abuse, and psychological trauma.

However, endorsement and implementation of the Declaration has brought about real change – in Somalia, for example, three educational facilities that had been used for military purposes by AMISOM were vacated and rehabilitated. Since endorsement, schools and universities used for military purposes have also been vacated in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Chile, and Sudan. Several countries have also been revising their military doctrine to restrict the use of schools and universities for military purposes, including Switzerland, Denmark, Slovenia and New Zealand. 

“When the Safe Schools Declaration was opened for endorsement three years ago I don’t think we would have imagined it would gather the momentum it has, with the number of endorsing states more than doubling,” said Nijhowne. “In the next year, we expect the momentum to continue to build, with Spain hosting the Third International Conference on Safe Schools in 2019, which will further galvanize support.”

The Declaration has been endorsed by a third of the African Union and the Organization of American States, as well as over two thirds of NATO and the European Union (EU). Germany is the 23rd EU member out of 28 to join the Declaration, bringing full endorsement by the EU into close sight.

“Over the next year, we look forward to accelerated implementation of the Declaration by endorsing states, including Germany,” said Nijhowne. “In particular, we encourage strengthened and more standardized collection of data on attacks on education. This is critical to develop effective interventions to prevent and respond to attacks, as well as accountability for perpetrators and support for victims, all commitments within the Declaration.”

Click here to see a map of all states that have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration.