Around the world, in places experiencing armed conflict, schools and universities are becoming part of the battlefield. The use of schools and universities as bases, barracks, firing positions, and armories may transform places of learning into legitimate military objectives under international law, thus endangering students and teachers, and rendering their educational infrastructure and materials vulnerable to attack.
The process leading to the development of the Guidelines and the Safe Schools Declaration was spearheaded by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) in 2012, and further led by Norway and Argentina, with a wide range of States supporting the initiative. The ICRC was consulted by States and GCPEA on various aspects during the drafting of the Safe Schools Guidelines, though the final content was ultimately determined under the leadership of Norway and Argentina.
The Safe Schools Declaration, launched in Oslo in May 2015, highlights the broad impact of armed conflict on education and outlines a set of commitments to strengthen the protection of education and ensure its continuity during armed conflict.
The Safe Schools Declaration is an inter-governmental political commitment that provides countries the opportunity to express support for protecting education from attack during times of armed conflict; the importance of the continuation of education during war; and the implementation of concrete measures to deter the military use of schools.
When they endorse the Declaration, states commit to undertake several common-sense steps to make it less likely that students, teachers, schools, and universities will be attacked, and to mitigate the negative consequences when such attacks occur.
Since it was opened for endorsement at the Oslo Conference on Safe Schools, as of Oct. 31, 2019, 98 countries around the world, including many in Africa, have signed the Safe Schools Declaration, signaling their commitment to protect students, teachers, schools, and universities from the worst effects of war. Communist China, however, is not one of them.