Arria: Protection of Education in Conflict

Statement by HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway on the protection of education in conflict, 6 December 2021. The Arria-formula meeting was co-hosted by Niger and Norway and chaired by the Foreign Minister of Norway, Anniken Huitfeldt.

Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

Norwegian development, human rights and humanitarian policies are based on the notion that equal access to quality education is a fundamental right. The provision of education is both the responsibility of, and of great benefit to, states and communities. It is against this backdrop that Norway has brought the issue of protection of education to the Council. 

Few things are more important for children and young people than safe access to education. This is particularly true in areas affected by conflict. The protective environment that schools and universities provide can be life-saving. And the knowledge and skills acquired there cannot be taken away. Their future depends on education. And our future depends on them. 

Schools and educational institutions educate our future doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, and leaders who develop our nations, and rebuild communities after conflict. And we must also protect the institutions in and of themselves, as carriers of our culture and heritage. 

It is in this context that the adoption of resolution 2601 by the Security Council is an important landmark. For the first time the Security Council has adopted a resolution uniquely dedicated to the protection of education.

The resolution does three important things:

It highlights the invaluable role that education plays for peace and security. 

It calls upon Member States to protect schools and education facilities from attacks. 

And it urges all parties to fulfil their obligation to facilitate the continuation of education during conflict.  

It also recognises the need for concrete measures to mitigate the negative consequences caused by the military use of schools. It places an important emphasis on the gendered impact of attacks on education and recognizes the vulnerability of children with disabilities. 

The fact that 99 countries co-sponsored the resolution underlines the truly global commitment to this important cause. And I would like to thank each and every one.

I also sincerely thank civil society partners who have long supported this vital agenda. And who – every day – make a difference by providing education opportunities for children in armed conflict.

I would also like particularly to pay tribute to Niger, current President of the Council, and co-penholder of the resolution. Thank you for your longstanding commitment inside and outside the Council to this topic, and your strong contributions in the Council for the last two years.

The same week that the resolution was adopted, some 1900 representatives of states and organisations gathered in Abuja and online for the fourth international Safe Schools Declaration conference. The conference highlighted the practical work done to prevent attacks, to prevent military use, and to ensure the continuation of education in conflict. 

At the conference a children’s manifesto was launched carrying the voices of affected children. The children described how they live in fear. How they want their right to education to be respected; and for attacks, and military use of schools and universities, to end. It is our responsibility to heed their call. 

The work of the Council forms only a part of the broader global effort, across generations, and doesn’t end with the adoption of Resolution 2601. We must ensure now that the resolution is fully implemented, and that we use this momentum to do more. Including investing in education in situations of crisis and conflict. 

I urge all of us today to work together to ensure the full implementation of this resolution: In close cooperation with governments, UN agencies and our civil society partners. So that we together can strengthen our resolve in promoting education – in conflict, in stability, and for building peace. 

Thank you.