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'It's Time To Endorse Safe Schools Declaration,' HRW Tells Ukraine

A woman walks past a school building damaged by recent shelling in the city of Donetsk in November.
A woman walks past a school building damaged by recent shelling in the city of Donetsk in November.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Ukraine to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, an intergovernmental political document aimed at better protecting children’s right to education in wartime.

The New York-based watchdog made the call in a June 20 statement, saying that fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has a “devastating toll” on children.

Since the conflict began in April 2014, at least 740 education facilities in the region have been damaged or destroyed, according to the United Nations.

In May of this year alone, the UN said at least four education facilities sustained damage as a result of continuous hostilities.

Both sides in the conflict have used schools and universities as bases and barracks, HRW said.

Seventy-five countries have signed the Safe Schools Declaration, which contains concrete commitments to better protect students, teachers, schools, and universities from the effects of war.

“The UN Security Council’s Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict is on July 9. What better platform for Ukraine to endorse the declaration than on one of the world's most influential stages?” HRW said.

Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Serhiy Kyslytsya said in October 2017 that his country attaches “great importance” to the Safe Schools Declaration and expressed Kyiv’s willingness to endorse the document.

“These words were encouraging, but more than seven months later, it’s time to put words into action, HRW said. “Ukrainian children cannot wait any longer.”

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