Australia to Protect Schools, Children Affected by War
Armed groups that attack schools will be prosecuted by Australian military forces as part of their endorsement of an international schools protection pact.
Australia joins 116 other countries that have formally endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration.
As part of the declaration, military policies and measures will be put in place to ensure education continues for all children during war time.
This includes investigating attacks and prosecuting those responsible, and discouraging the use of schools for military purposes.
Schools in war-affected countries were subject to more than 5000 attacks in 2020 and 2021, according to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA).
Countries in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Pakistan and Myanmar, have alarmingly high incidents of schools and students being made victims of war, as classified by the GCPEA.
Armed groups have also used schools to recruit child soldiers and as a place to set up military bases.
With the International Safe Schools Conference to take place in Malaysia this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) is expecting Australia to encourage other countries to commit to the pact.
“Australia’s responsibilities do not end with its endorsement,” HRW Australian director Daniela Gavshon said in a statement on Thursday.
“Schools should be places of study and safety for children.
“They cease to be safe havens, and students lose their ability to access vital education (during armed conflicts).”
She said Indonesia, Japan and South Korea are some of the “notable absences” from the declaration.