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Resolution: ESU calls for increased protection of schools and universities during armed conflict

Resolution passed by ESU’s 67th Board Meeting

Proposed by:NSO

Seconded by:LSVb, ASU, ASYOU, LSA, HÖOK, NUSUK, KSU, SSU, UdU, vss-unes-usu, ÖH, CREUP, POFEN, UNEF, Fage

According to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), between 2005 and 2014, national armed forces and non-state armed groups, multi-national forces, and even peacekeepers have used schools and universities in at least 25 countries during armed conflict.

Students, schools, and education are endangered when armed forces use colleges and universities for military purposes during armed conflict — for barracks, bases, weapons caches, detention centres, or training for soldiers. Students are deprived of education entirely, are distracted from their learning, or become fearful of the military activities going on around them and therefore stop attending classes. Schools and universities occupied by combatants have been attacked by opposing forces, in some cases killing or injuring students in the crossfire. This needs to stop.

Schools and universities are not only crucial to the delivery of opportunity and sustainable development. In times of conflict, students see them as sanctuaries, as places of normality and safety, and as places of hope. Moreover, by protecting schools and universities during armed conflict, we communicate the idea that we are planning ahead for a time free of conflict.

Over the past two years, GCPEA has worked with ministries of foreign affairs, defence, and education, as well as militaries from around the world to develop new international standards, known as The Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict. The Guidelines, which will be launched in Geneva on the 16th of December 2014, urge parties to armed conflict not to use schools and universities for any purpose in support of the military effort. While it is acknowledged that certain uses would not be contrary to the law of armed conflict, all parties should endeavour to avoid impinging on students’ safety and education, using the Guidelines as a guide to responsible practice.

As students we recognize the importance of safe places of learning. Just as we would not tolerate our armed forces turning our own classrooms into military bases, we do not want to see our armed forces using schools or universities for military purposes if deployed abroad. The European Students’ Union therefore strongly urges all countries — and especially our own governments — to not only endorse, but also implement into our countries’ own domestic military doctrine, policies, and trainings, the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.


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