UNSC adopts ‘first of its kind’ resolution to protect education in armed conflict

UNSC unanimously adopted ‘first of its kind’ Resolution 2601 (2021) while strongly condemning attacks against schools, children, and teachers. Know key details and its significance.

UNSC, Source: Reuters
UNSC, Source: Reuters

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on October 29, 2021, adopted a unique first-of-its-kind resolution to urge armed conflict parties to immediately safeguard the right to education and ensure the protection of schools. The 15-member UNSC unanimously adopted Resolution 2601 (2021) while strongly condemning attacks against schools, children, and teachers. India also voted in favour of Resolution 2601.

Earlier on August 30, 2021, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) under India’s Presidency had adopted Resolution 2593 as the guiding tool for the international community in managing the situation in Afghanistan. While condemning the August 26 attacks near the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, the UNSC Resolution 2593 demanded that Afghanistan should not be used to plan or finance terrorist attacks or threaten any country or shelter or train terrorists.

Also read: UNSC adopts new resolution on Afghanistan under India’s Presidency; China, Russia abstain

What is UNSC Resolution 2601 (2021)?

The UNSC Resolution 2601 (2021) is a unique first-of-its-kind resolution unanimously adopted by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on October 29, 2021, in order to condemn attacks against schools, children, and teachers and immediately safeguard the right to education.

With Resolution 2601, the UNSC urges the Member States to create domestic legal frameworks that should include comprehensive measures to prevent attacks and protect schools, children, teachers as well as related civilians during armed conflict and in post-conflict phases.

Significance of UNSC Resolution 2601 (2021)

The UNSC resolution 2601 (2021) emphasizes the role of education in the lives of individuals and society. Safeguarding education in armed conflict should be a key priority for the international community. The issue of education in conflict regions and the exponential increase in the number of devastating attacks on schools, children, and teachers around the world have been gaining significant importance in the UN Security Council.

As per the UN data gathered from a Global Study of Attacks on Schools, Universities, their Students and Staff (2015-2019), it was noted that more than 11,000 attacks were reported wherein more than 22,000 students and educators were harmed, injured, or killed across 93 countries. The Report of the Secretary-General 2020 and 2021 on ‘Children and armed conflict’ also reported a significant increase in the number of attacks against schools.

The Delegation of Niger in September 2020 had convened an open Security Council debate to deliberate on attacks against schools, children, and teachers. During the debate, members adopted a presidential statement to affirm the right to education and also called on countries to take action to prevent attacks against schools. The Niger debate had noted that more than 75 million children have suffered disruption in their education due to attacks on schools.

Also read: UNSC Open Debate: EAM Jaishankar proposes four-point framework to secure UN peacekeepers

Safe Schools Declaration: Resolution 2601 (2021) – Key Recommendations by UNSC

While strongly condemning the military use of schools in violation of international law, the Council urged all parties to armed conflict to adopt the civilian code of educational facilities in accordance with international humanitarian law.

The Council also requested the establishment of appropriate strategies and coordination mechanisms for the exchange of information and cooperation by the 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.

Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities in access to education during armed conflict, the Council requested equitable global access to quality, safe, efficacious, and affordable medicines and vaccines, essential health technologies, diagnostics, therapeutics, and equipment for the response to COVID‑19.

In order to ensure continuity of education during armed conflict, the Council urged the Member States to adopt and promote remote learning or online learning including digital learning.

The Council urged the Member States to ensure girls get equal access to their right to education while noting that they could be the intended victims of attack due to education disruption leading to rape, abduction, or other forms of sexual violence.

The Council asked the Member States to ensure protection and assistance to children in vulnerable situations such as refugees, displaced, children with disabilities, among others.

The Council encouraged the Member States, donors, and relevant parties to integrate mental health and psychosocial services into all humanitarian responses to deal with the detrimental health effects in children experiencing forced displacement due to armed conflict.

Also read: India elected to UN Security Council as non-permanent member

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