From 23 to 25 June, Geneva Call and Protect Education in Insecurity and Armed Conflict (PEIC) – a programme of the global “Education Above All” initiative – organized a workshop on the negative and positive obligations of armed non-state actors (ANSAs) regarding education in armed conflict, as well as the suitability of the international response.
This was the first workshop to bring together policy-makers, child protection and education-in-emergency practitioners, researchers and three ANSA representatives from Burma/Myanmar, Sudan and Syria. It aimed to review the realities on the ground, identify gaps in knowledge and responses, and address challenges. The workshop took a comprehensive and inclusive approach, starting from the crucial argument that ANSAs are key stakeholders. Some ANSAs attack educational establishments and use schools for military purposes, whereas they can also facilitate and even provide education.
The workshop focused on these positive actions, and the presence of the ANSA representatives allowed the participants to gain valuable insights into their policies regarding education, as well as the challenges they face when providing it.
Three days of discussions helped to chart a course towards better responses from the international community to ensure the right to education in armed conflict, including for children living in areas controlled by ANSAs.
As part of its mission, Geneva Call has already engaged with approximately 50 ANSAs on this topic. To date, 16 of them have signed the Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict. They have thus committed to avoiding using schools, or premises used by children, for military purposes and to take concrete measures towards ensuring that children have access to education.
Geneva Call has also played an active role in the process that led to the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict. Indeed, on 28 and 29 May, the Norwegian government invited Geneva Call’s president to speak at the conference on “Safe Schools: Protecting Education from Attack.”