Students, teachers and schools should always be protected in armed conflict – World | #schoolsaftey

Statement from Christian Cardon de Lichtbuer, Chief Protection Officer at the International Committee of the Red Cross, during the High-Level Event commemorating the fourth International Day to Protect Education from Attack.

Your excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen

The Protection of education during conflict is a core part of ICRC’s work.

International humanitarian law requires warring parties to refrain from attacking students, teachers, and their schools.

  • Children are civilians.
  • Teachers are too.
  • Schools are civilian buildings.

It is that civilian character that offers them protection during the conduct of hostilities.

The Safe School Guidelines build on the protection of education guaranteed by international humanitarian law. They promote practical and concrete measures that militaries can take to preserve the civilian character of schools, and consequently ensure their Protection.

And even when schools are used for military purposes, international humanitarian law still requires armed actors to take all feasible precautions prior to attack, to avoid or minimize incidental harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure. Attacks that cause disproportionate damage to civilians and civilian objects are still prohibited, too.

As ICRC, we do engage in dialogue with militaries and armed groups about the rules protecting education. As a result of this dialogue, we have seen military commanders move installations away from schools making them less likely to become targets. Non-state armed groups we have spoken to, have issued directives stating that schools in the areas under their control should be shielded from attack. We believe that this is precisely where we make a difference.

We remain highly committed to continue our dialogue with armed forces and armed groups to better protect education and support communities to assess and manage risks, adopt safer behaviours, and install passive protection measures in and around schools, close to frontlines or in urban conflict settings.

We do also ask states to respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law and take a step forward to better include the protection of education into their own laws, policies, and military practice.

We encourage States to endorse the Safe School Declaration and implement their guidelines.

As ever, the ICRC stands ready to offer its legal reading of the Safe School Guidelines and to provide technical and practical advice to all interested parties on how to best implement them in specific contexts.

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