GLOBAL: New UN Resolution Includes Protection of Schools During Armed Conflict
(MissionNewswire) In many of the world’s poorest countries – where hunger and hopelessness is a daily reality for so many children – providing life-saving meals and educational opportunities is hampered by threats of violence. Security is one of the top concerns for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that operate schools in places where there would otherwise likely be none. To feed and educate children, they not only build classrooms and kitchens – they construct security walls and employ armed guards.
The U.N. Security Council’s new resolution to protect schools and hospitals during conflict was welcome news to the humanitarian world, including Salesian NGOs which operate schools in more than 130 countries around the globe – making them one of the world’s largest providers of vocational/technical education for youth.
Recent events in the Ivory Coast offer a chilling example of why the U.N. resolution is necessary. More than 30,000 displaced civilians fled to a Salesian Missions compound in Duékoué when the Carrefour district was looted and houses set on fire on March 29. At least 800 people were killed.
One month previously, armed robbers attacked members of the faculty of a Jesuit-run theology school in the Ivorian capital of Abidjan as the priests were preparing for dinner. Students had not been at the school for several months due to escalating violence in the area. The robbers entered school grounds by jumping over a security wall, quickly disarmed the guards on duty and attacked a deacon. This illustrates why U.N. forces have been guarding the Salesian compound where 15,000 displaced people still seek safety.
The troubling reality is that such violence happens in countries around the globe, and children are too often caught in the crossfire even when they are in school or seeking medical care at a hospital.
“These horrific attacks are not only a violation of international and humanitarian law, they are a violation of our common humanity,” said Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF. “The Security Council has taken a major step toward ending the culture of impunity and protecting children at their most vulnerable.”
The Security Council unanimously adopted the resolution on July 12 during its “Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict” at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
The ruling means that attacks on schools and hospitals will be listed in the U.N. Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict. The Security Council says it will also impose targeted measures on those who violate children’s rights through such attacks.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, the special representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, told the council that schools and hospitals are increasingly targeted by armed groups.
“The promise of this resolution is very real,” she said. “During my visits to conflict areas, I have personally seen the devastation – schools completely destroyed, bombed or burnt to the ground. Attacks on hospitals are two-fold atrocities. Not only do they kill and wound girls and boys, but they leave children without access to treatment.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the measure would send a clear message that schools and hospitals should be spared from violence, building on seven previous Security Council resolutions dealing with children in armed conflict.
Lake urged that the Security Council, while it strengthens the legal framework to protect children in conflict, not consider children merely as victims but as resilient, resourceful and courageous citizens.
“They have hopes and dreams like children everywhere, even when virtually everything has been taken from them,” he said. “They don’t need our pity. They need practical support.”
(Photo: Rick Bajornas/UN)