On 23 July, the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bokova, made an appeal for all parties to respect and protect the right to education. This appeal is made in the context of reports that schools and educational facilities in Gaza and in Israel are being damaged as a result of shelling and rocket attacks.
“I call for the protection of schools in all circumstances, especially in conflicts. All parties must respect schools as safe places for learning and teaching. I am shocked by the damage and destruction sustained by educational facilities in Gaza from shelling and by the rockets fired on Israel causing a continuous threat and disruptions to its school system.” said the Director-General.
Ms Bokova appealed also for all parties to respect the civilian character of schools and educational facilities – including the inviolability of school premises.
“In line with international law, I condemn all use of schools by armed groups and military forces. Such use may render schools legitimate targets of attacks and further threaten the safety and security of civilians” said the Director-General.
Across the world, conflict is the steepest barrier to education. Over half of the children out of school today live in countries affected by conflict or fragility, representing 28 million girls and boys.
“When education facilities are attacked, we put the safety of students and teachers at risk. When education services are disrupted as a result of violence, we put the future of entire generations at risk. It is inadmissible that schoolchildren and teachers live in the fear of attacks against their schools” said the Director-General.
“There can no be violations of the right to education – this must be respected and protected by all, in all circumstances, especially in situations of conflict.”
The Director-General joined her voice to the statement of the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, in briefing the Security Council on 22 July from Ramallah, when he called for the protection of civilians and sent a three-part message: “First, stop the fighting. Second, start the dialogue. Third, tackle the root causes.”
Ms Bokova renewed UNESCO’s commitment to stand up for the protection of the right to education during conflict – including through the recently released Guidance Note on the Implementation of the Security Council Resolution 1998 ("attacks on schools and hospitals"), which calls on Member States to prevent attacks on schools and hospitals, as well as their military use.
As a member of the Global Coalition to Protect Education From Attack, UNESCO is acting across the world to protect schools and the right to education in countries affected by conflict, including South Sudan and Afghanistan.