8889th Meeting (AM)

Security Council Strongly Condemns Attacks against Schools, Urges Safeguarding of Right to Education, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2601 (2021)

Strongly condemning attacks against schools, children and teachers today, the Security Council urged parties to armed conflict to immediately stop such violence and to safeguard the right to education.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2601 (2021) (to be issued as document S/RES/2601(2021)), the Council also urged Member States to develop domestic legal frameworks to ensure respect for their relevant international legal obligations.  National strategic frameworks should include comprehensive measures to prevent such attacks and ensure the protection of schools, children, teachers and other related civilians during armed conflict and in post‑conflict phases.

Moreover, the Council condemned the military use of schools in contravention of international law, urging all parties to armed conflict to respect the civilian character of educational facilities, in accordance with international humanitarian law.  In that regard, the Council encouraged Member States to facilitate the continuation of education during armed conflict and called upon United Nations country‑level task forces to enhance monitoring and reporting on military use of schools.

The Council also requested the establishment of appropriate strategies and coordination mechanisms for the exchange of information and cooperation by Member States, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Children and Armed Conflict, United Nations peacekeeping and political missions, and its country teams.  It called upon regional and subregional bodies to do the same.

Recognizing that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities in access to education and the continuation of education during armed conflict, the Council requested, among other things, equitable global access to quality, safe, efficacious and affordable diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines, as well as essential health technologies and equipment for the response to COVID‑19.

The Council encouraged Member States to promote the adoption of remote learning solutions, including digital learning, to facilitate continuity of education during armed conflict, drawing on the innovations and lessons learned during the pandemic.

Noting that girls may be the intended victims of attack on their education, the Council said that can lead to serious violations such as abduction, rape and other forms of sexual violence, urging Member States to address girls’ equal enjoyment of their right to education.

The Council then urged Member States to provide the necessary protection and assistance to children, including those in vulnerable situations such as internally displaced persons, children undergoing reintegration assistance, refugees and children with disabilities, among others.

Stressing the deleterious effects of humanitarian emergencies and conflict-related forced displacement on the mental health and psychological well‑being of children of humanitarian emergencies and forced displacement due to armed conflict, the Council encouraged Member States, donors, and relevant parties to integrate mental health and psychosocial services into all humanitarian responses.

Norway’s representative, speaking after the adoption, said the resolution — co‑drafted by her delegation and that of Niger — will make a strong contribution in raising the Council’s clear voice against the disruption of education.  Noting that attacks were conducted in 93 countries between 2014 and 2019, she said the. resolution recognizes that denial of access to education has a long‑term negative impact.  It is the first-ever resolution uniquely dedicated to the protection of education, she pointed out, saying it also underscores the need for concrete measures against military use of school and emphasizes the vulnerability of girls.  The Council undertook a mission to Mali and Niger recently, she recalled, saying the resolution could not be more timely because, during their visit, members witnessed school closures and the negative impacts of the pandemic on access to education.  However, the work on that matter does not end today, she cautioned, stressing the need for full implementation of the resolution.

Niger’s representative said that although the resolution garnered unanimous support from all 15 members, with 98 co-sponsors, sadly, more than 75 million children around the world have seen their education disrupted by conflict.  Attacks on schools and school infrastructure have grown alarmingly around the world, with more than 11,000 attacks between 2014 and 2019 affecting nearly 22,000 students and teachers in 93 countries, he noted.  During the annual debate on children and armed conflict, Niger’s President affirmed that every school that closes is a door of opportunity closed, he recalled, emphasizing the need and the obligation to reopen those doors of opportunity.  He went on to point out that the resolution is the Council’s first product establishing the link between the protection of education and international peace and security.  For Niger, located in the heart of the Sahel and with one of the world’s youngest populations, protection of and access to education is not just a concept but an imperative, he stressed.

India’s representative emphasized that the resolution’s reference to “facilitation of the continuation of education” by Member States applies only to situations of armed conflict.  Such facilitation in situations of non-armed conflict should be discussed in other United Nations forums, he said, adding that  India voted in favour with that understanding.

The meeting began at 10:14 a.m. and ended at 10:33 a.m.

For information media. Not an official record.