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Security Council - Open Arria formula meeting on Attacks on Schools

Date:

10/13/2017


Security Council - Open Arria formula meeting on Attacks on Schools

Statement by Ambassador Inigo Lambertini, Deputy Permanent Representative and Charge' d'Affaires a.i. of Italy to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on Attacks on Schools ---

Excellencies,
Dear colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank France, Sweden and Uruguay for co-organizing with Italy today’s event as well as Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba for her presence and for her efforts. I would also like to thank civil society organizations, like the “Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack”, for their role of advocacy and awareness raising on the issue of children affected by armed conflict. Before starting the discussion, we would like to show this very brief video.

This video shows in a nutshell the devastating impact of war on children and education. Twenty some years after the Graca Machel report, schools continue to be used for military purposes, including as military barracks, while children continue to be exploited as child soldiers or sexual slaves. You may remember the events of April 2014, when Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from their school in Chibok in north-eastern Nigeria. Joy Bishara, who is with us today, is among the 57 girls who were able to escape from the terrorist group.

According to the reports of the Secretary-General related to the years 2015 and 2016, incidents of attacks on schools were verified in nearly all the countries mentioned in the reports, confirming the current relevance of the phenomenon.

Indeed, access for youths and children to an adequate education is put in jeopardy by armies and non-state armed groups, which destroy educational institutions or use them for military purposes. This kind of activities not only destroy infrastructures, but also impact profoundly on the fundamental right to education and the physical-psychological wellbeing of young generations, thus laying the groundwork for future conflict.

This brings us to the goals of today’s Arria meeting.
We welcome the steps taken by the Security Council, mainly in resolution 1998, which identified recurrent attacks against schools or attacks or threats of attacks against protected persons in relation to schools as a “trigger” for listing in the annexes to the Secretary-General’s reports. We also welcome the heightened attention of the international community to this issue, thanks to the Paris ministerial conference on “Protecting Children from War”, organized by France and UNICEF last February, and the Buenos Aires Conference on the progress of the Safe School Declaration, held last March.

Nevertheless, stronger efforts are needed to tackle the actions of some armed groups and terrorist organizations, such as Boko Haram, whose name (meaning "Western education is a sin") is itself a tell-tale of its goals. In addition to laws and standards at the international level, Member States should adopt their own laws and policies to protect schools from military use. For instance, our military criminal law (applied even in times of peace for “international peace missions”) establishes that the military Commander is obliged to adopt provisions prohibiting the destruction or severe damage of school buildings in enemy territory.

Training of armed forces and police units on international humanitarian law and human rights is key. In Italy, for instance, modules on the respect of human rights, of international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians are included in all the courses that CoESPU, the Centre of Excellence for Stability Police Units, offers each year to peacekeepers. Up to now, more than 10.000 peacekeepers, mostly coming from African countries, have been trained by the Centre of Excellence.

We need to multiply the efforts, and also to raise awareness on the gravity of the impact that conflicts have on children. Not only when they are enrolled as soldiers: in recent years we have witnessed an increasing trend to attack civilian infrastructures, including schools, to the point that this heinous phenomenon has become literally a weapon, especially in the hands of terrorist groups, that do seek to undermine the rights of children, and among them, of girls in particular, to live their life and to enjoy the right to education.

We look forward to the interventions from the briefers today and to a constructive discussion with colleagues to share best practices and national experiences.

 


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