ICRC President Peter Maurer: “During conflict, education must not be targeted”

09 September 2020

To commemorate the first International Day to Protect Education from Attack, the ICRC's President, Peter Maurer, made a statement in a pre-recorded message at the high-level event at the UN General Assembly to mark this special day.


Congratulations to Your Highness Sheika Moza bint Nasser and the State of Qatar on your dedicated efforts to advance on this critical issue.

This week I am traveling to the Sahel region to visit ICRC operations and discuss our humanitarian concerns with authorities. As in many violent places around the world, the children of the Sahel have suffered enormously during conflict, including the loss of their schooling.

I have stood in the ruins of schools in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Classrooms bombed, fired upon, teachers threatened: Schools have become treacherous places instead of refuges for learning and opportunity.

Attacks on education are attacks on the future potential of individuals, communities and entire countries.

And International humanitarian law is clear: during conflict, education must not be targeted. Parties must protect students, educational personnel, schools and other educational facilities.

The ICRC is pleased to see the rules of IHL and the priority to facilitate access to education reflected in the Resolution to establish the International Day to Protect Education from Attack. Now we need to see better behaviors on the battlefield.

The ICRC is well-placed to respond when education systems are plunged into crisis: through our contact with authorities and weapon bearers; our proximity to affected communities; and our access to hard-to-reach areas.

We will keep working to safeguard schools and communities through risk awareness training, introducing protective security measures to school buildings, providing mental health support to teachers and providing vocational training to people detained.

Today the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a new education crisis on a massive scale. I fear especially for vulnerable children and youth impacted by violence, displacement and protracted conflict.

In response to this new crisis, ICRC has designed a multidisciplinary approach – from facilitating electronic learning, to promoting hygiene, and providing psychosocial support to teachers.

We certainly all need to be smarter and better in cooperating and leveraging our complementary strengths: Collectively we need to do more. I hope this International Day is a clear rallying calling for action. We must not simply help people survive, we must enable lives of dignity and opportunity.

Watch pre-recorded message