We thank Niger for holding this important open debate a day after the commemoration of the first Inter-national Day to Protect Education from Attack and in the year marking the fifth anniversary of the Safe Schools Declaration. We welcome the Security Council’s adoption of a Presidential Statement on this crucial topic.
Education is an essential tool to provide both physical and psychological protection to girls and boys from the most devastating effects in situations of crisis and conflict. As one of the 105 states that have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, Switzerland encourages those countries which have not yet done so, to endorse the Declaration, and for those who have, to fully implement it. The Group of Friends of Protection of Civilians, chaired by Switzerland, seeks to contribute to promoting and advanc-ing its implementation.
In this context, we would like to reiterate two issues:
First, to continue protecting schools and students from attack is of utmost importance. The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack has registered over 7’300 direct attacks on schools and over 8’000 students, teachers and other school personnel killed, injured, abducted, threatened, arrested, or detained between 2015 and 2019. 7’300 attacks! That is 7’300 too many! Switzerland urges armed forces and armed groups to refrain from carrying out such attacks and from using schools and universities for military purposes. We also call on the Security Council to reiterate its call for all parties to conflict to be held accountable for such attacks, and that they be added to the list published annually of those who commit grave violations against children, in line with Resolution 1998 (2011).
Second, COVID-19 is having a strong impact on children’s access to continued quality educa-tion. An entire generation has seen its education interrupted. At the height of nation-wide lockdowns in spring, approximately 90 per cent of the world's students were out of school. Without the protective environment of schools, children are at greater risk of exploitation in the form of recruitment to armed groups, child marriage and forced labour. The interruption to schooling may also result in many children being permanently left behind and not obtaining any qualifications when they leave school. This has long-term negative effects on children’s development, health, and on their life chances in fragile and conflict-hit states. For this reason, we encourage Member States to deter military forces and armed groups from occupying schools, including those left empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To address this issue, Switzerland calls on the Council to support the swift implementation of Resolution 2532 (2020) demanding a cessation of hostilities in all situations on its agenda.
To conclude, Switzerland reiterates its full support for the UN’s efforts to protect education from attack, including through the work on the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on grave violations committed against children in armed conflict and the Council’s Working Group. In this regard, Switzerland encour-ages the Secretary-General to continue providing a complete, impartial and accurate list of all parties committing grave violations of children's rights, including attacks on schools.
I thank you.