Safe Schools Leaders called for worldwide initiative for safe schools

The first meeting of Safe Schools Leaders in Istanbul, Turkey last 30-31 October, organized by the Government of Turkey in cooperation with UNISDR, called for political commitments to safer schools. By becoming Safe Schools Leaders, Governments are encouraged to formally announce their political and financial commitments to safe schools at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan.

The event gathered together a group of 10-15 Governments who are committed and active in school safety as part of a unique “Safe Schools Leaders” group that will steer the Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools. Safe School Leaders are expected to make safe schools a priority as part of their national planning and implementation agenda, including disaster risk reduction policies being integrated into school safety and national education plans.

As a result of collapsed schools from natural calamities and disasters, children and teachers are killed, accounting for a significant proportion of total disaster mortality. Thousands of damaged schools each year in smaller scale disasters, interrupt education and causes the loss of education staff and hard earned development gains.

The 2009 Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction proposed that by 2011 national assessments of the safety of existing education and health facilities should be undertaken, and that by 2015 concrete action plans for safer schools and hospitals should be developed and implemented in all disaster prone countries. A range of initiatives and tools for school safety have been developed since then by a number of governments and partners.

The High-Level Dialogue Communiqué of the 2013 Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction recommended to “start a global safe schools and safe health structures campaign in disaster-prone areas with voluntary funding and commitments to be announced at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2015.” In support of the above calls, this Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools was developed, with several countries committed.

The event included field visits to selected safe schools sites in Turkey, recognized as one of the school safety success stories compiled in the Global School Safety Baseline Report (UNISDR/Thematic Platform on Knowledge and Education). The Government of Turkey has been particularly successful in developing guidance on risks in the context of local schools and in retrofitting critical infrastructure in Istanbul.

Furthermore, the meeting also discussed global baseline report on school safety and mentioned 30 case studies on integrating disaster risk reduction into school curriculum. In support to the promotion of commitments for safe schools, IRDR SC Member Djillali Benour attended the said meeting and helped in shaping commitments to the Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools.

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