GCPEA, The Lucens Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, December 2014

The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA)75 was established in 2010 by organizations from the fields of education in emergencies and conflict-affected fragile states/6

The Lucens Guidelines were drafted by a former British military officer and a drafting committee including state representatives and other experts after consultations with experts from governments, militaries, UN agencies, and international and human rights organizations. In November 2012, GCPEA convened a group of experts in Lucens, Switzerland, in order to consult them on the document. The experts included representatives from twelve states, as well as the human rights and humanitarian law community. The Guidelines were finalized via a state-led process headed by Norway and Argentina in December 2014.

Under the leadership of Norway and Argentina, states participated in consultations on the Safe Schools Declaration in May 20 1 5.77 By signing the Declaration, states can endorse the Guidelines and commit themselves to ‘use the Guidelines, and bring them into domestic policy and operational frameworks as far as possible and appropriate’. Furthermore, by signing the Declaration, states agree to ‘meet

  • 73 Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare (2013): 19.
  • 74 Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare (2013): 18.
  • 75 Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, Draft Lucens Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, Oct. 2014, .
  • 76 GCPEA is governed by a steering committee consisting of: CARA (Council for At-Risk Academics), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Institute of International Education/IIE Scholar Rescue Fund, Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC), Save the Children, UNICEF, UNESCO, and UNHCR.
  • 77 Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, ‘Safe Schools Declaration’, May 2015, .

on a regular basis, inviting relevant international organizations and civil society, so as to review the implementation of this declaration and the use of the guidelines’.

It is laid down in the introduction to the Guidelines that they respect international law as it stands and do not propose to change it. They are not legally binding in themselves and do not affect existing obligations under international law. The Guidelines are intended to generate a shift in behaviour that will lead to better protections for schools and universities in times of armed conflict.

The legal framework applicable to the targeting of schools and universities during armed conflicts is found primarily in IHL. It is, however, highlighted in the Guidelines that while IHL ‘contains all the rules governing targeting, it is less focused on the use of schools in support of the military effort, which is also affected by international human rights law. It is, therefore, important to acknowledge at the outset that the law of armed conflict is complemented by international human rights law.’


A number of new soft law instruments have been adopted in the last two decades regulating areas of armed conflict that states have been unwilling or unable to regulate in treaty law. These instruments cover a wide range of important issues, including: sea warfare; air and missile warfare; cyber warfare; interpretation of the notion of direct participation in hostilities; non-international armed conflicts; private military companies; detention in international military operations (in non-international armed conflicts); and protecting schools and universities from military use and attack during armed conflict.

These areas are—most often—covered by the general rules in existing IHL hard law, for example in the Geneva and Hague Conventions, but more specific and detailed tailor-made rules have been identified in the above-mentioned soft law instruments.

This development gives rise to a number of observations, discussed in section 4.

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