UN Security Council calls for the protection of education in conflict

New York: On 6 December, the UN Security Council convened an in-person Arria-formula meeting on the protection of education in conflict, organized by Niger and Norway in their capacity as co-penholders on resolution 2601 on the protection of education in armed conflict. Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt chaired the meeting and HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway provided opening remarks. Briefers included, among others, Ms Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict; Ms Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director; and Mr Eliot Mincheberg, Director a.i. and UNESCO’s representative to the United Nations. 
Building on the momentum following the unanimous adoption of resolution 2601 and its unique contribution to the children and armed conflict agenda, the meeting provided a platform to discuss other instruments, lessons learned and good practices on the protection of education, such as the Safe Schools Declaration. Opening the meeting, HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway underscored that the adoption of resolution 2601 by the Security Council is an important landmark, as the first of its kind to be uniquely dedicated to the protection of education. More particularly, the resolution highlights the invaluable role that education plays for peace and security, calls upon Member States to protect schools and education facilities from attacks, and urges all parties to fulfil their obligation to facilitate the continuation of education during conflict. Prince Haakon concluded his intervention by noting that the fact that 99 countries co-sponsored the resolution underlines the truly global commitment to this important cause, and urged governments, UN agencies and civil society partners to continue working together to ensure its full implementation.
By reiterating that education is not only a fundamental right for children but also the foundation for sustainable peace, stability and development, Ms. Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, called on Member States and the international community at large to join forces to protect schools and to protect students and teachers from violence. She also expressed her willingness to foster cooperation with UNESCO to ensure the implementation of resolution 2601, including through strengthened collaboration aimed at improving student’s access to connectivity and at protecting and supporting teachers during armed conflict and post-conflict phases.
During the meeting, Member States highlighted the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent school closures that have exacerbated schools’ vulnerability to attack. More particularly, they emphasized the gendered aspects of attacks on schools and noted that protecting the education of adolescent girls in emergencies and conflict demands urgent and dedicated attention, particularly in Afghanistan where threats to eliminate education for girls are already prompting huge spikes in Gender-Based Violence, including sexual violence.
By recognized the importance of remote and digital learning as an important tool in facilitating the continuity of education in challenging circumstances, several Member States called on more investment on digital literacy and remote learning infrastructure in regions affected by armed conflict in order to provide valuable support to education, especially when schools are subject to attacks. The need to improve data collection to enhance the international community understanding of the impact of conflict on education was also stressed. 
Mr. Eliot Minchenberg, Director of the UNESCO New York Office and Representative to the United Nations, expressed UNESCO’s readiness to supporting Member States in the implementation of the UNSC Resolution 2601. Recalling that the disruption of education is one of the longest-lasting and detrimental consequences of armed conflict, he stressed the need to accelerate further concrete action to protect education from attack. He also highlighted the importance of improving data collection, supporting the continuity of learning, and building on the lessons from the pandemic. He concluded by expressing UNESCO's willingness to continue working closely with its partners, notably the Office of the Special epesentative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflicts, UNICEF and other UN agencies to support Member States ensure equitable and inclusive quality education for all. 
Watch the recordings of the event here.