Statement at Arria formula meeting on the issue of attacks on schools

Statement by Hedda Samson,
Political Coordinator of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
to the United Nations,
New York, 13 October 2017

Mr. President,

The Netherlands aligns itself fully with the statement made by the European Union. We also fully support the statement made by the Permanent Representative of Italy.

Please allow me to thank and congratulate Italy, France, Sweden and Uruguay on the organization of this meeting.

Thank you also to the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, as well as to the Co-Chair of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack for their briefings.

I am grateful for and humbled by Ms. Joy Bishara courageous testimony before us. Individual stories like hers make us all understand the reality behind the chilling number of no less than 753 verified incidents of attacks on schools and hospitals in 2016

Denying ourselves education is denying ourselves progress. Attaching great importance to the right to education, the Kingdom of the Netherlands therefore reaffirms the importance of the implementation of the existing legal framework in relation to the protection of schools. In particular international humanitarian law. Indeed, it contains clear legal obligations that are binding on all parties to armed conflict and is thus crucial to the protection of schools. It obliges us to investigate and prosecute acts of violence against schools that amount to war crimes.

If non-compliance remains unpunished, if offenders are not held accountable, if we fail to stop attacks on schools, the road gets very slippery and the erosion of compliance with international humanitarian law in armed conflict will irrevocably set in.

Commited to the goal of safer schools in times of armed conflict, the Kingdom of the Netherlands was among the first to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and the related “Guidelines on the Protection of Schools and Universities during Armed Conflict”. While non-legally binding, they contain useful incentives for all actors involved in armed conflict to evaluate and, where needed, change their behavior in relation to schools.

Mr President, it is shameful that we need today’s debate. But we really do. This debate alerts the Security Council and the wider UN membership to the duty of continued scrutiny. The Security Council has played a crucial role in building up instruments to independently report on attacks on schools and identify parties involved in such attacks. It is in our shared interest to make sure these instruments continue to be used appropriately. As a member of the Security Council in 2018, the Kingdom of the Netherlands will contribute to fulfilling this duty. Indeed, today’s briefers have made it all too clear: we must remain vigilant – there is no room for complacency.

Thank you.

Hedda Samson at Arria formula meeting on the issue of attacks on schools

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