On the occasion of the Human Rights Council’s 25th session, which was dedicated to “access to justice for children”, a study, co-authored by Dr Gilles Giacca, on the United Nations human rights mechanisms and education in armed conflict was launched in Geneva. (http://www.geneva-academy.ch/docs/reports/Protection%20of%20Education%20and%20UN%20Human%20Rights%20Mechanisms.pdf)

It is a sad reality that educational facilities as battlegrounds are a common feature of many situations of insecurity and armed conflict. Excessive use of force by state forces or by non-state armed groups, combined with the fact that hostilities often take place in urban areas, make educational facilities, students, and educators frequent casualties. Moreover, evidence suggests that education ‘as such’ is not simply the victim of collateral damage but has become a specific target of attack. The effect is felt through the loss of teachers and intellectuals; the flight of students and staff; the destruction of buildings; the shelving of investment; and the generalized degradation of education systems.

In 2012-13, Dr Gilles Giacca, Dr Takhmina Karimova and Stuart Casey-Maslen conducted research on behalf of Protecting Education in Insecurity and Armed Conflict (PEIC, Qatar) into the practice and contribution of UN human rights mechanisms to the protection of education in times of insecurity and armed conflict, examining the treatment of 49 states for the period 2007-12. The final report [http://www.geneva-academy.ch/docs/reports/Protection%20of%20Education%20and%20UN%20Human%20Rights%20Mechanisms.pdf], United Nations Human Rights Mechanisms and the Right to Education in Insecurity and Armed Conflict, offers recommendations on how such protection might be strengthened. These include a call for greater attention to the impact of disability on access to education in insecurity and armed conflict and advocates that protection should consistently concern all levels of education to ensure the right of adults as well as those of children to high quality education are respected, protected, and fulfilled.

The report considers how UN human rights mechanisms have conceptualized the right to education. It concludes that positive international legal obligations to respect, protect, and provide education continue to apply during insecurity and armed conflict and that targeted attacks against educational staff, students, and facilities, whether by armed forces or armed non-state actors, violate the right to education.