Missing out on school due to war

Two hundred and twenty-two million children and young people around the world are affected by violent conflicts and humanitarian crises. Switzerland is working to protect these children, in the UN Security Council as well as in other bodies and through its international cooperation work. Syrian refugee children in Jordan and Lebanon are just one example of how Switzerland is restoring access to education – a key pillar of sustainable peace and development.

A Yemeni boy stands in a line of adults holding guns.

Over 11 million children and young people in Yemen are suffering the effects of the eight-year conflict. © Keystone

At its meeting on 13 February 2023, the UN Security Council addressed the issue of children in conflict regions. Violent conflicts are having a catastrophic impact on children and young people worldwide, robbing them of their future prospects. "This Council has developed numerous tools to prevent grave violations. For these tools to maintain their deterrent effect, their independence, impartiality, and credibility must be preserved," said Switzerland's UN Ambassador Pascale Baeriswyl at the Security Council meeting in New York. 

Switzerland's three action areas in the UN Security Council

The issue of children in armed conflict is closely related to two of the priorities for Switzerland's UN Security Council term: 'Protecting civilians' and 'Building sustainable peace'. Switzerland is committed to three action areas in the Security Council to mitigate the impact of conflict on children: 

Protection of civilians

In particular, Switzerland is working for better protection of children caught up in conflicts. To this end, it is committed to strengthening and ensuring the necessary level of detail in the UN Secretary-General's Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict. The report is an important instrument of accountability, identifying parties to conflict who have committed grave violations against children. These include recruitment, abduction, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence. The UN Security Council calls on the parties named in the report to develop and implement measures to end violations against children. Attacks on schools and hospitals and denial of humanitarian access are also defined by the Security Council as 'grave violations'. 


If there is to be any chance of sustainable peace, children must be reintegrated into society after their involvement in an armed conflict. As well as a safe place to live, psychosocial support and educational and work opportunities are key to the children's transition to civilian life. In the Security Council, Switzerland advocates conditions that offer such prospects to children and young people who have left armed forces and groups. Such opportunities are fundamental not only to realising the rights of these children, but also to social cohesion, building a fairer and more inclusive society, and ultimately to democracy and prosperity.  

Sustainable development

There can be no sustainable development without education. Within the UN Security Council, Switzerland is also working to ensure that children and young people have access to education, despite being caught up in conflict. Education allows children to reach their full potential and develop their skills, and offers them the protection they need to help restore their sense of normality and security. There is also evidence that education discourages children from joining armed groups. Education is therefore one of the best means of investing in peace, stability and economic growth. A weakened education system affects the overall development of a country, including economically, politically and socially. 

Children are particularly vulnerable, which is why protecting them plays a special role in the PHRD's civilian protection work.
Ambassador Simon Geissbühler, Head of the FDFA's Peace and Human Rights Division (PHRD)
Portrait of Ambassador Simon Geissbühler
Simon Geissbühler, head of the Peace and Human Rights Division © FDFA

"Children are particularly vulnerable, which is why protecting them plays a special role in the PHRD's civilian protection work. With this in mind, we work to ensure that international law and human rights are respected and that the relevant international instruments are strengthened. By also seeking to ensure that children have access to education and are reintegrated into society after a conflict, we are making an important contribution to lasting peace and prosperity," says Ambassador Simon Geissbühler, Head of the FDFA's Peace and Human Rights Division. 

UN Security Council regularly verifies violations against children in armed conflict

An armed conflict has been under way in Yemen since 2015. In 2022 alone, the UN's Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) verified and documented 2,748 grave violations against 800 children in the country. These included cases of children being killed or maimed, or recruited and used in either combat operations or support roles. Switzerland supports the MRM because it strengthens accountability for serious child rights violations around the world.

Established by a Security Council resolution in 2005, the MRM documents the six categories of grave violation committed against children in armed conflicts by both state and non-state actors. The Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict regularly reviews the information reported through the MRM and makes recommendations for possible measures to improve the protection of children.

New schools for Syrian refugee children in Jordan

Switzerland's international cooperation work promotes education in emergency situations – for Syrian refugee children in Jordan and Lebanon, for example. Since the start of the conflict in Syria in 2011, hundreds of thousands of children have fled to neighbouring countries to escape the horrors of war. This has placed a huge additional burden on local infrastructure. As the Syrian children attend school in their host countries, the state education system is also coming under strain. Switzerland is upgrading school buildings in the region so that they can accommodate more pupils. So far, it has renovated 171 schools in Jordan and Lebanon, benefiting 110,000 local and Syrian schoolchildren.

Schoolchildren stand in front of a renovated school in Jordan.
The opening of a school renovated by Switzerland in Sahab, Jordan. © SDC

Through these efforts, Switzerland is enabling Syrian children and young people who have fled their homeland to continue their schooling while also benefiting from psychosocial support services. This gives them a chance to overcome the traumas of war and integrate into society. At the onset of a crisis, access to education is essential as part of a rapid humanitarian response. However, education also strengthens the resilience and prospects of children and young people in the long term. That is why education is particularly important as an investment in sustainable peace and development. 

Conference in Geneva: better educational opportunities for 20 million children around the world

On 16 and 17 February 2023, Switzerland and the UN's Education Cannot Wait (ECW) fund are hosting a high-level financing conference in Geneva. This will bring together leading figures – including Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis – from civil-society, government and private institutions to finance education for children in emergencies and crises. The goal is to mobilise USD 1.5 billion to help 20 million children and young people affected by the world's worst humanitarian crises.

ECW High-Level Financing Conference

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