EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT INTERVIEWS THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES, FILIPPO GRANDI

Filippo Grandi is the 11th United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
He was elected by the UN General Assembly on 1 January 2016 to serve a five-year term, until 31 December 2020. Grandi has been engaged in refugee and humanitarian work for more than 30 years.

Filippo Grandi is the 11th United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He was elected by the UN General Assembly on 1 January 2016 to serve a five-year term, until 31 December 2020. Grandi has been engaged in refugee and humanitarian work for more than 30 years.

Education Cannot Wait: As the UN agency mandated by the UN General Assembly to provide international protection and seek solutions for refugees, could you please elaborate on the overall importance of education for refugee children as a component of protection and solutions?

Filippo Grandi: School is often one of the very first things that refugee families ask about after being displaced. Keen to recover a sense of normalcy and dignity after the trauma of being uprooted, they are also heavily invested in their children’s futures. Many children and young people are displaced several times before crossing a border and becoming a refugee. For these children school is the first place they start to regain a sense of routine, safety, friendship and even peace. Education plays a key role, both in ensuring the protection of children and young people and helps families and children focus on rebuilding their lives and returning to many of the activities that they would normally have engaged in prior to displacement.

As UNHCR’s recent Education Report 2020 has shown, whilst there have been some successes in access to primary education, these have slowed down. Gross Enrollment Ratios show that 77 per cent of refugee children are enrolled in primary education, but this drops dramatically to 31 per cent at the secondary level. Girls are disproportionately impacted. Since global evidence shows the significant protective nature of secondary education for girls, this is a key aspect of work for UNHCR and partners like Education Cannot Wait.

Together, we are petitioning for refugee enrollment in education at all levels to be brought up to global levels to enable the millions of children and young people around the world who have been forced to flee their homes to build a better future for themselves, their families and their communities. Allowed to learn, develop and thrive, children will grow up to contribute to the societies that host them but also to their homelands when peace allows for their return. Education is one of the most important ways to solve the world’s crises.

Filippo Grandi meets children at the Jibreen shelter in Aleppo, Syria. Jibreen is now home to over 5,000 people displaced during fighting in the city. © UNHCR/Firas Al-Khateeb

Education Cannot Wait: You are a long-standing member of Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Steering Group. As you know, Education Cannot Wait is designed to ensure that children can continue their education in times of emergencies and protracted crises. Please elaborate on the special needs of refugee children during emergencies and protracted crises, and how do you see Education Cannot Wait contributing to meeting those rights and needs?

Filippo Grandi: The Global Compact for Refugees calls for measures to enable children and youth return to learning within three months of displacement. This goal highlights the important role that education – both formal and non-formal –  plays in supporting children to resume normal activities. Children can feel a sense of belonging with their peers in classrooms, have the opportunity to play and engage in recreational activities, and receive potentially lifesaving information on issues related to health, hygiene and safety. Schools also provide access to support services, such as counselling and school-feeding programmes.

Preparing refugee children to enter into the national education systems of host communities is critical and requires working closely with Ministries of Education to remove administrative and policy barriers to school enrollment.  It also entails ensuring children have the skills and abilities needed in order to thrive once they are enrolled in schools. Language learning classes – especially where the language of instruction is different – catch up programmes, and accelerated education all support children’s enrollment into school and ability to learn effectively. It is also important to provide information and material assistance to assist families overcome some of the practical barriers to school enrollment. Psycho-social support is also instrumental for children who have undergone the trauma of displacement and need help in adapting to new situations and environments.

The support provided by Education Cannot Wait enables agencies and organizations to ensure that services are provided after the onset of an emergency to address the immediate needs that have been highlighted above, focusing both on protection and education needs and working to ensure that children are prepared for inclusion in formal education programmes. Education Cannot Wait has also played a pivotal role in calling for donors to invest in education during and after emergencies to ensure children’s educational needs can be met during humanitarian crises, as evidenced by the increase in investment in education in emergencies over the last four years.

Education Cannot Wait: A significant number of pledges made by countries and other stakeholders at the 2019 Global Refugee Forum centered around education, including individual and joint pledges made by Education Cannot Wait highlighting multi-year investments to increase opportunities in secondary education for refugee children, and in working with other global funds to support quality education for refugees. What gaps in funding are there for refugee education globally and where best can donors help, including countries, civil society and private enterprises?

Filippo Grandi: While funding to education in emergencies grew five-fold between 2015 and 2019, education usually only receives between 2 and 5 percent of the total budget of humanitarian appeals. As we move from emergency situations to protracted crises, there is a risk that education spending is further deprioritized, making it harder to support host governments to continue the delivery of education services over a sustained period.

Funding gaps in education mean that it is often difficult to ensure that children and youth complete a full cycle of education, moving from primary, through secondary and to tertiary education.  Global figures show that there is a dramatic drop in enrollment between primary and secondary education and that only 3 percent of refugee youth are enrolled in tertiary education programmes.

Funding gaps also mean that those who are most in need, including children in women- or child-headed households and those with disabilities do not receive the specialized support that is required in order to fully enjoy their right to education. The joint pledge at the Global Refugee Forum by Education Cannot Wait, the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education has the potential to be a game changer in terms of ensuring that systems are strengthened and supported so that refugees and other vulnerable populations enjoy continued access to education.

Education Cannot Wait: Education Cannot Wait has dedicated its second round of COVID-19 First Emergency Response investments for refugee situations throughout the world. Could you please elaborate on some of the key emergencies in terms of refugee education for UNHCR and the difference that Education Cannot Wait’s emergency response for COVID-19 will make?

Filippo Grandi: The closure of schools around the world effectively meant that 90 percent of refugee children who were enrolled in schools and education programmes were unable to continue receiving an education.

As they are located in some of the most remote areas in countries or have limited resources at home, they were unable to benefit fully from distance and home-based learning programmes and are at serious risk of falling further behind academically. This risk is even more serious for adolescent girls where an estimated 50 percent of girls who were in school are at risk of not returning once classes resume. The closure of schools also means that many of the wrap-around support services mentioned earlier (food distribution, psycho-social support and recreational activities and learning support programmes) were disrupted.

Families who have lost their livelihoods as a result of the pandemic experience greater economic pressure and may deprioritize spending what little resources they have on schooling in order to ensure that their most basic needs are met. All these factors contribute to heighten protection risks during periods of school closure, leaving the educational futures of many refugee children hanging in the balance. 

Keeping education going during a pandemic requires resourcefulness, innovation, invention and collaboration. Education Cannot Wait’s funding for the COVID-19 response will play a key role in mitigating these risks, by finding ways of ensuring that students are able to continue learning during school closures, disseminating information to refugee families about re-opening procedures and the safety protocols that will be put in place, training teachers on adjusting to the pandemic, providing additional materials to students, implementing back to school campaigns and making much-needed improvements to water and sanitation facilities in schools. Many of these activities have already been initiated with the generous support of Education Cannot Wait. 

Education Cannot Wait: UNHCR and ECW have also jointly coordinated closely with host-governments, humanitarian and development actors in developing multi-year resilience investments, such as the Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities in Uganda. How do you see this strengthening education for refugees and host-communities in the humanitarian-development nexus?

Filippo Grandi: The theme of UNHCR’s 2020 report is ‘Coming Together for Refugee Education’. This focus really echoes the Global Compact on Refugees which advocates for a “whole of society” approach to ensuring that the needs of refugees and hosting communities are addressed.  This means that a range of stakeholders have a role to play in realizing the goals of the Compact.  The presence of a clear plan and set of objectives for supporting access to education helps define roles and areas of contribution for a broad range of stakeholders. It is crucial that there are linkages between refugee and humanitarian response plans, multi-year resilience plans and longer-term sector development plans.

Education Cannot Wait’s support for education programming immediately after the onset of an emergency and the longer-term assistance provided through Multi-Year Resilience Programmes plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between humanitarian and development financing.  The inclusion of refugees in host-country education systems means that donors and other actors need to work closely with governments to increase the capacity of these systems to accommodate additional students, develop teachers’ abilities to respond to students’ needs and to ensure that children can progress through different educational levels.

Education Cannot Wait: Would there be any final comments you would wish to make to ECW’s audience globally regarding the importance of refugee children’s education in emergencies?

Filippo Grandi: Investment in education for refugees is essential to ensure that creativity and potential of young people in conflict and crisis-affected regions is not lost.  During the COVID-19 pandemic refugee students have played pivotal roles in their communities working on the frontlines as healthcare workers, making masks and soap to be distributed to those who need it, offering advice and disseminating health and hygiene information and establishing programmes for tutoring younger students. Their drive, initiative and passion would have been lost without early investment in their education. 

Education for refugees is an investment that pays off for the whole community – and the world. It is also a fundamental right for all children that is affirmed in the 1951 Refugee Convention, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This right must also be upheld in emergencies where we call on global actors to focus not only on access but on the quality of education and children’s ability to learn, leading them to a brighter and more dignified future.

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This interview is also published by IPSNews and is available in French and in Spanish.

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT INTERVIEWS KARINA GOULD, CANADA’S MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The Honourable Karina Gould was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Burlington in 2015.

A graduate of McGill University and the University of Oxford, Minister Gould is passionate about public service and international development. Before her election as the Member of Parliament for Burlington, she worked as a trade and investment specialist for the Mexican Trade Commission in Toronto, a consultant for the Migration and Development Program at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., and spent a year volunteering at an orphanage in Mexico.

Minister Gould has deep roots in her hometown of Burlington, Ontario, and is an active member of the community and an advocate for women’s issues and affordable housing. She has volunteered with and actively supports the Iroquoia Bruce Trail Club, the Burlington chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women, the Mississauga Furniture Bank, Halton Women’s Place, and other local organizations.

Minister Gould lives in Burlington with her husband Alberto and son Oliver.

With the birth of Oliver, Minister Gould became the first federal cabinet minister to have a baby while holding office. She is passionate about breaking down barriers for women, youth, and underrepresented groups.

Minister Gould addresses students participating in War Child Canada’s ‘Making Waves: Gender-inclusive radio-based education in the DRC’ project during a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo in January 2020.

ECW. As Canada’s Minister of International Development and as a key member of ECW’s High-Level Steering Group, could you please elaborate on the importance of linking emergency humanitarian response with development to achieve quality education for vulnerable children and youth in countries affected by armed conflict, forced displacement and natural disasters.

Karina Gould. We have heard from children and youth affected by armed conflict, forced displacement and natural disasters, as well as their families, that education is a priority for them. And we know that education in emergencies is an issue that ideally works across humanitarian and development responses.

Working through the humanitarian-development-peace nexus is crucial to ensuring that both immediate and long-term education needs are fulfilled. By working through a nexus approach, we recognize that the immediate response of humanitarian actors is vital to keeping children engaged and protected, while the long-term vision of the development community is critical to maintaining gains towards SDG4 and to strengthen education systems and make them more resilient to crises in the future.

Education is often the first thing that is disrupted and the last thing to be rebuilt during an emergency. Despite the importance of maintaining a system of quality education, especially in protracted humanitarian situations, education is still not sufficiently prioritized for immediate humanitarian funding and development actors need to do more to support resilient national education systems that ensure education is not disrupted. This is why Canada supports organizations like Education Cannot Wait, which is emerging as a leader in demonstrating how education programming can be quickly and efficiently rolled out within the humanitarian-development-peace nexus space.

ECW. Canada is a staunch defender of multilateralism in addressing the world’s challenges and opportunities. With almost 80 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including 26 million refugees, Education Cannot Wait will dedicate its First Emergency Response to refugee education in its upcoming COVID-19 response actions this month. How do you see ECW’s progress so far in responding to COVID-19 and how can we strengthen collective efforts to deliver quality education to forcibly displaced populations, who often are left furthest behind?

Karina Gould. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how connected we all are to one another across the globe. At the height of the pandemic, 164 countries had closed their schools, which affected 1.4 billion students worldwide – over 90% of the world’s learners. This is on top of the already marginalized populations such as refugees and internally displaced peoples who did not previously have consistent access to quality education.

In the past months, the world has come together to try to stop the spread of the virus. We shared innovative ideas for how to make education and learning more accessible for those who had their education disrupted, to ensure a continuity of learning for all. These solutions are made more effective and are amplified when we work in partnership, including through our major multilateral institutions like Education Cannot Wait.

I have been impressed with Education Cannot Wait’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the speed with which they responded to the crisis in the first round of COVID-19 funding, and the commitment to focus the second round of funding on education for refugees, particularly adolescent girls. This is a group of children and youth who are often left behind and who are disproportionately affected by education disruptions due to displacement, and now even more so due to COVID-19. It is important that we take this time to strengthen our efforts to ensure these marginalized populations remain a priority in our global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These groups must not be forgotten.

We can strengthen our collective efforts to deliver quality education to forcibly displaced populations, who often are left furthest behind, by continuing to work through multilateral organizations like Education Cannot Wait and ensuring strong coordination with other partners on the ground, including other multilateral partners, civil society and local refugee organizations.

In January, I travelled to Congo and the DRC and witnessed firsthand the important work that ECW’s partner organizations like War Child Canada are doing on the ground to support improved access to education for refugees and displaced peoples, especially girls. Their radio program allows adolescent girls and boys to continue with their learning during school closures by transmitting lessons and allowing learners to access teachers through dedicated hotlines. There are even question and answer periods to keep things dynamic and to keep the youth engaged in learning. I have seen how these initiatives are making a difference on the ground, and it is by building on these partnerships that we can maximize our ability to reach the most marginalized children and youth, particularly girls, refugee and displaced children, to ensure they have the opportunities they deserve.

ECW. Education Cannot Wait greatly appreciates Canada’s continued strong support in meeting the educational needs of children and youth caught in emergencies and protracted crises – including Canada’s new contribution of CAD $5.5 million a few days ago, and the Charlevoix Declaration to strengthen girls’ education in emergencies. ECW is committed to ensuring that 60% of our beneficiaries are girls. As a strong advocate for girls’ education, why is it so important for girls, including refugee and adolescent girls, to have access to education in crisis contexts?

Karina Gould. Girls and adolescent girls face a unique and additional set of challenges that limits their chances of accessing and completing an education. These challenges include poverty, unequal gendered roles in the household and at school, gender-based violence, and school environments and curricula that perpetuate inequalities. In crises contexts, these barriers to girls’ education can be even further entrenched, with girls being 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys.

Through the Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP), Canada recognizes that gender equality is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Access to education is a pathway to achieving this goal. It can significantly reduce poverty, provide for better economic opportunities, and can improve health outcomes such as maternal and child health, protecting women and girls from child, early and forced marriage and providing essential sexual and reproductive health services that can enable women to engage in improved family planning.

Yet access is only part of the solution. We also need to make sure that once the children are in school, that they are learning. Quality teaching and learning, and ensuring that schools are safe places for children, particularly girls, are equally important and require additional efforts and resources, especially during a crisis. Ensuring that teachers are well-trained and equipped to instruct children who have or are living through a crisis; that curricula and learning materials reflect relevant cultural realities and do not perpetuate negative gender norms; and that girls and boys have access to adequate hygiene and WASH facilities are all required in order to keep children engaged and for families to continue to see the value in sending their children, particularly their girls, to school. This is why Canada, as President of the G7 in 2018, championed the Charlevoix Declaration on Quality Education for girls, adolescent girls and women in developing countries to further address these challenges in order to ensure that girls – especially those affected by crisis and conflict – have access to quality education.

I personally believe that it is essential for girls, including refugee and displaced girls, as well as adolescent girls, to have access to education in crisis contexts.

ECW. Prior to becoming Minister of International Development, you were appointed Minister of Democratic Institutions in 2017 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, becoming the youngest female cabinet minister in Canadian history. Congratulations! You are an inspiration and a role model for girls and women around the world. What message and guidance would you like to share with girls who face education challenges – including the COVID-19 pandemic – in achieving their hopes and dreams?

Karina Gould. My message to girls around the world facing education challenges would be this: “You are worth it. I know it is hard and there are a lot of challenges you are facing. But your hopes and dreams are worth fighting for. You have so much to offer the world. You and your voice and your experience matter. The world needs you to keep studying, to keep dreaming, to keep pushing for what you want to see in the world.”

ECW. We’d love to learn a bit more about you on a personal level. Could you tell us what are the three books that have influenced you the most (or that you’d recommend to others to read), and why?  We’d also love to know what kind of music gets you energized and motivated to address the challenges you face as Minister. Finally, is there an inspirational or motivational quote (or two) that you often turn to in life?

One of my favourite quotes is by Margaret Mead. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

It was hard to pick just three books, so here are my top four!

To Life by Ruth Minsky Sender

I read this book in grade 7, I was 12 years old. As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, this book opened my eyes to the experiences of my own family. It helped me talk to my grandmother and understand what it was like to be a survivor and to have to pick up and restart a life after living through unimaginable trauma and loss. It is an incredible story of loss, tragedy, strength, courage and renewal.

Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn

I have always been a feminist. I have always believed in seeking and fighting for equality. But this book woke me up to the distinct disadvantages that women face around the world. Until I read this book I didn’t understand how dangerous giving birth was for the majority of women in the world. I learned so much and it made me want to learn even more. This book put me on a path to fight for women’s rights and women’s health around the world.

What is the What by Dave Eggers

This a fictionalized biography of Valentino Achak Deng, one of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan. This book ignited my passion for protecting children from the ravages of war, building a more compassionate world, and fighting for the rights of refugees. It also led me to explore books about Africa written by Africans, which opened up a whole new literary world for me.

Anne of Green Gables Series by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Was one of my favourite series as a child, written by a great Canadian author!

ECW. Are there any final comments you would like to share with ECW’s global audience on the importance of refugee children’s education in emergencies, as well as the importance of not only prioritizing education in humanitarian contexts, but also delivering quality education with ‘the fierce urgency of now’, rather than waiting until the crisis is over.

Karina Gould. When schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was quick to mobilize to ensure – to the best of our abilities – that we focused on continuity of learning for out of school children. What I would like to reiterate is that we need to remember the vulnerable populations, including refugees and displaced children, who were not in school before the pandemic and who never had access to quality education. These children deserve the chance to learn, and must not be left behind.

EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT INTERVIEWS AMINA J. MOHAMMED, DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

Ms. Amina J. Mohammed is the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group.

Ms. Amina J. Mohammed is the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group. Prior to her appointment, Ms. Mohammed served as Minister of Environment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where she steered the country’s efforts on climate action and efforts to protect the natural environment. Ms. Mohammed first joined the United Nations in 2012 as Special Adviser to former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with the responsibility for post-2015 development planning. She led the process that resulted in global agreement around the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ms. Mohammed began her career working on the design of schools and clinics in Nigeria. She served as an advocate focused on increasing access to education and other social services, before moving into the public sector, where she rose to the position of adviser to three successive Presidents on poverty, public sector reform, and sustainable development. Ms. Mohammed has been conferred several honorary doctorates and has served as an adjunct professor, lecturing on international development. The recipient of various global awards, Ms Mohammed has served on numerous international advisory boards and panels. She is the mother of six children and has one grandchild.

ECW. As an inspirational global women leader who has dedicated your life to service, how do you see the progress and challenges we face in advancing gender equality and empowering the next generation of women leaders through girls and adolescent girls’ right to a quality education?

Amina J. Mohammed. I am inspired by the upcoming generation of women leaders who in the face of disasters, conflicts, and health emergencies prioritize their education and use their platforms to advocate for the right of all girls and young women to a quality education. Advancing gender equality and amplifying the voices of these young women needs to be at the center of all our work.

The great progress we have made globally to advance gender equality cannot be underscored enough – more girls are going to and staying in school than ever before and the number of out-of-school girls has dropped by 79 million in the last two decades. Yet, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 132 million girls were still out of school.

Girls – particularly adolescent girls – face significant barriers to a quality education in many contexts. There are risks of sexual harassment, exploitation, abuse and violence – both on the way to and at school. Many girls have competing demands on their time due to care and household responsibilities. Many families face the difficult choice of which of their children will get an education due to financial constraints – and many times, boys are chosen over girls. Girls’ education is particularly under threat in emergencies and for children on the move and we need to continue to empower this next generation of women leaders through a quality education.

All these issues have been exacerbated by COVID-19. Lockdowns and the socio-economic crisis have brought dramatic increases in domestic violence, including for girls and adolescent girls. Furthermore, rates of child marriages have increased, and it is not clear what effects that would have if schools remain closed for a long period.

To tackle the challenges exacerbated by the current pandemic, we need strengthened efforts to not only ensure gender equality dimensions are prioritized in all our work, but also apply targeted measures to ensure girls, and the most vulnerable, do not bear the heaviest burden and are protected.

ECW. There is a global education crisis in the world, and it is increasingly clear that education, or Sustainable Development Goal 4, is foundational to realising the full spectrum of the Sustainable Development Goals. How do you see the interrelation and why is it so important to connect those dots in advancing all of the Sustainable Development Goals?

Amina J. Mohammed. Education is a human right and is central for building sustainable and resilient societies, as well as for achieving personal aspirations and all the other Sustainable Development Goals. There is no doubt that equipping children and youth with relevant knowledge and skills has a catalytic impact on eradicating poverty, reducing inequalities, improving health, driving economic growth and achieving gender equality.

Without investing in youth to create an enabling environment for them to learn and acquire skills for decent work, sustainability, climate change awareness and global citizenship, we will not deliver on our promise for the future we want.

Without ensuring quality and inclusive education for all, we will not be able to advance our efforts for more peaceful and inclusive societies and for promoting respect for human rights. Yet, we have seen warning signs that on current trends, the world is not on track to achieve the SDG4 goal and targets.

Before COVID-19, more than 260 million children, adolescents and youth were out of school. while more than 617 million were not learning, achieving only minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics. Now COVID-19 has exacerbated the global education crisis with more than 1.5 billion children who face disrupted education while too many children are still at risk of not returning to school, especially those most marginalized – including girls, children with disabilities, and children on the move. Violence against children is increasing. COVID-19 is not just a health crisis – it is a human crisis and an education crisis.

Indeed, a quality education and lifelong learning is foundational to all other aspects of human development and sustainable development. The foundations for learning start in the womb – maternal health and nutrition is vital for brain development. We know that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life are critical and set the stage for learning throughout the lifecycle. We know that children who experience stunting also experience difficulties with learning. When children do not have access to clean water and sanitation or life-saving vaccines for preventable diseases, their lives are at risk. Without access to quality and relevant education, young people cannot build the skills needed to succeed in life and work, and consequently they and their communities suffer.

We need to make sure that all children and youth have an equal chance – girls and boys, children and youth with disabilities, children and youth from marginalized communities. In order to achieve real progress on any of the SDGs, our approaches need to put education at the center.

ECW. The UN General Assembly President recently stressed the need to continue to invest in education during the current COVID-19 crisis and pointed out that many governments in the South do not have the infrastructure to provide adequate remote learning through technology, and this risks deepening the already existing global education divide. How do we translate global cooperation into a concrete bridge that reduces the divides, starting with financing, economic cooperation, and socio-economic development and equity?

Amina J. Mohammed. The COVID-19 crisis in combination with the existing global digital divide has posed considerable challenges for addressing the learning crisis. The pandemic has presented an additional risk of deepening the global education divide and losing the gains that have been made so far. With nearly three quarters of learners being affected by the school closures globally, many countries are facing unprecedented economic challenges including how they can ensure the equity and inclusion of their education systems. Reliance on new technologies for the provision of education during the crisis has highlighted the importance of investing more into making all education systems more resilient, open, inclusive and flexible.

The lack of access to technological readiness and connectivity in some developing countries, but also the overall level of their preparedness to adapt the curricula, prepare learners, educators and families, as well ensure efficient assessment and certification processes, would need to be addressed at scale if we are to learn from the COVID-19 crisis.

To address this complex situation, we all need to work together in partnership to ensure that all children and youth continue to learn, maintaining a focus on the those most in need.

The technology to reach everyone everywhere is available. It’s up to all of us to make sure that at all levels we can scale up these solutions empowering teachers to meet every child and young person’s learning needs in every context. Of course, this should be complemented with improving education systems’ preparedness to face global challenges while advancing on the achievement of the sustainable development for all.

ECW. The UN Secretary-General’s Reform places strong emphasis on ‘The New Way of Working,’ the ‘humanitarian-development coherence’ and the principles of ‘less bureaucracy and more accountability.’ These approaches and principles are also embedded in the strategy and work of Education Cannot Wait (ECW), which is hosted by the UN (UNICEF). Having followed ECW’s work closely since its inception, how do you see ECW contributing to UN reform and the SDGs, especially as we accelerate during the Decade of Action, through concrete measures and results.

Amina J. Mohammed. Despite progress on education provision in crisis-affected situations, the persisting barriers to education have worsened due to the pandemic. ECW’s response during COVID-19 has exemplified the ways in which it implements the new way of working with humanitarian speed and development depth. During the unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic, ECW and partners mobilized to provide education support at record speed. The quick release and flexibility of funding allowed UN country teams to respond quickly and to implement education interventions in the ways most appropriate for each context.

At the onset of COVID-19, utilizing the in-country education coordination mechanisms, a total of US$23 million was rapidly disbursed to 55 grantees across 26 countries within a period of 9 days between the receipt of initial applications and the first disbursements of funds.  This collaborative approach ensures transparency, and promotes coordinated response and efficiency and effectiveness within the sector.

As an example, in Cameroon, the COVID-19 education response was developed in alignment with the national COVID-19 response strategy in education in multi-stakeholder collaboration with five Ministries of Education. UNESCO and UNICEF received the ECW first emergency response funds for an innovative distance learning platform and the safe protocol for both formal and non-formal education settings. The US$1.5 million allocation in Cameroon for the COVID-19 response will ensure access and continuity of children’s learning, reaching 3.9 million children, of whom 2.2 million are girls, as well as 8,600 teachers, 60 per cent of whom are women.

ECW. With COVID-19, we have all had to adjust and reassess how we operate in the current environment to continue to deliver on the SDGs and will also need to look ahead as this crisis will stay with us for some time. What do you see as the priorities, both in terms of development sectors and strategic approach in mitigating the impact of the global COVID-19 crisis and the people we serve, especially those left furthest behind, such as low-income countries affected by conflict and refugee-hosting countries?

Amina J. Mohammed. Our first and foremost priority really is to address the human face of this global crisis and do it with a global response, which really does need solidarity. Therefore, in the UN, we see the emergency response as threefold. The health response in suppressing transmission of the virus. The Humanitarian response which we have to keep fueling to ensure people are safe in this crisis situation; and an urgent socio-economic response to stem the impact of the pandemic, by helping Governments and people act in a way that builds a better and greener future.

A UN socio-economic response framework was developed to protect the needs and rights of people living under the duress of the pandemic, with particular focus on the most vulnerable countries, groups, and people who risk being left behind.

The five streams of work that constitute this framework include: 1. ensuring that essential health services are still available and protecting health systems; 2. helping people cope with adversity, through social protection and basic services; 3. protecting jobs, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, and informal sector workers through economic response and recovery programmes; 4. guiding the necessary surge in fiscal and financial stimulus to make macroeconomic policies work for the most vulnerable and strengthening multilateral and regional responses; and 5. promoting social cohesion and investing in community-led resilience and response systems. These five streams are connected by a strong environmental sustainability and gender equality imperative to build back better.

The UN´s response in the field of social protection and basic services includes supporting governments to adapt, extend and scale-up services to secure sustained learning for all children, and adolescents, preferably in schools. As such, the UN is working with national education authorities and private sector education service providers to support preschools and schools that can safely remain open, while assisting governments to scale up digital and other forms of remote learning.  All efforts need to be put in place to make sure all children and youth remain engaged in remote learning if available and return to school once these reopen.  The UN is also supporting teachers through professional training programmes on alternative learning methods.

The UN recognizes a multilateral response like none ever before is required. One that needs the courage to flip the current orthodoxies because we need new tools, new measures and we need to lift the policy barriers that we often find as an excuse as to why we can’t do things at the speed that it needs to be done.

We are presented with a once in a generation opportunity to reach all children and deliver on the SDGs. To do so, we need to work together and leverage partnerships. Our priority is to ensure that all children are learning – whether that’s returning to school, accessing education for the first time, utilizing digital technologies or sitting in a classroom. We need to reach those that are furthest behind, we need to innovate how we do business, and we need to provide real-time response. Children in emergencies and children on the move are in greatest need of support and must be included in any approach.

ECW. In the face of the global COVID-19 crisis unprecedented to our generation, it is also a time for reflection and a real resolve to building back better. Considering that an inclusive quality education for every child and adolescent is one essential part of the solution, how can all of the UN’s constituencies pro-actively and concretely provide unwavering support to realize the values and commitments made 75 years ago?

Amina J. Mohammed. COVID-19 presents us with an opportunity for countries to build back better with equity and inclusion at the center, anchored in the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change. We have an opportunity to reimagine the overall purpose, content and delivery of education in the long term and importantly how the UN system could best support countries in making their education systems more resilient with current and future crises. It is important that we utilize the comparative advantages of each UN entity and other partners for a strengthened, efficient, and comprehensive global response. With UNICEF’s global field presence and education programming in 145 countries, and UNESCO’s network of specialized institutes and mandate to lead the global coordination of the achievement of the education related targets, the UN can utilize inter-sectoral approaches and tap into collective experience and practices from our expertise around the world.

THE POWER OF EDUCATION IN EMERGENCIES: INTERVIEW WITH DENMARK’S MINISTER OF DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION RASMUS PREHN

5 May 2020 – Denmark is Education Cannot Wait’s (ECW) third largest donor, with US$79.1 million in contributions to date. In this insightful interview with Denmark’s Minister for Development Cooperation, Rasmus Prehn, we explore the importance of girls’ education and gender equality, the humanitarian-development nexus, expanded engagement with the private sector, education in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic and more. A former high school teacher, with a master’s degree in social science, Minister Prehn has been a member of Danish Parliament since 2005, and was named Minister for Development Cooperation on June 27, 2019. Minister Prehn is the former chairman of the Danish Research, Education and Further Education Committee, a tireless advocate for education in emergencies, and a true champion for achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG4: inclusive and equitable, quality education for all.

Denmark is a strong political advocate of education and girls’ education in emergencies and crisis countries. How do you see investments in education in crisis countries bringing transformative change for the overall development agenda?

RP: Education holds a huge potential for transformation. Both in respect to giving children the tools they need for a sustainable future and in respect to transforming society as we know it into a place where girls and boys, women and men, have equal rights and opportunities. An educated girl can significantly increase her income as compared to girls with no education. Her future children will have a much higher chance of surviving the first five years of their lives.

Girls living in emergency contexts are of particular risk of being out of school. They are also at higher risk of sexual- and gender-based violence, including teenage pregnancies and child marriage. Their sexual and reproductive health and rights are often under pressure during times of crisis. Supporting education is also a way to address these risks, as education provides a foundation for increased gender equality and for the protection of the rights of women and girls.

Denmark’s investments in education in crises have a two-fold aim: 1) to ensure continuity of learning for children so that they have the tools for a better future 2) to re-define gender and social norms and raise girls and boys to be equal citizens with equal rights and opportunities.

Since Education Cannot Wait became operational in 2017, Denmark has also become one of Education Cannot Wait’s biggest strategic donor partners and has made major investments in Education Cannot Wait over the past years. What are the key incentives for investing in this relatively new global fund?

RP: Denmark is very committed to work more effectively across the humanitarian-development nexus to ensure more sustainable education outcomes in areas affected by conflict and protracted crisis. This was a key incentive for Danish support to ECW right from the start and for the large contributions that have placed Denmark among the largest donors to ECW.

For the same reason, a key priority for Denmark is that ECW focuses on its mandate to bridge the humanitarian-development nexus to secure long-term education impact. This is only more relevant in light of COVID-19, which has led to the close down of schools in more than 190 countries worldwide. When responding to the COVID-19 crisis, there was a need for immediate action to enable continued learning and address protection risks linked to children being out of school, while also supporting resilient education systems.

In response to COVID-19, and as the LEGO Foundation – the philanthropic arm of a Danish world class private sector company – increased its support to Education Cannot Wait – you also decided to frontload financing for Education Cannot Wait. This is a wonderful way for governments and private sector to provide matching support. How would you describe this model example of engaging private sector?

RP: Denmark firmly believes in partnerships and collaboration to solve the challenges faced in the world today. We need to work together at all levels to make sure we leave no one behind. Collaboration across the public and private sector is one important way of ensuring progress towards common goals. We recognize and much appreciate the role and support of the LEGO Foundation towards education in emergencies. The Danish Government and the LEGO Foundation are currently strengthening collaboration in the area of education. Through close strategic dialogue and coordinated actions such as the matching support, the aim of the collaboration is to ensure synergies towards common goals and the realization of SDG4. We hope that this can set an example for enhanced private and public sector collaboration also in other sectors.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a global impact upon all areas of virtually everyone’s life. What does Denmark see as the top three priorities moving forward to achieve SDG4 (quality, inclusive education), particularly for crisis-affected children and youth already impacted by armed conflicts, forced displacement and natural disasters – and now doubly hit by COVID-19?

RP: For Denmark, quality and inclusive education is key for learning outcomes. At the same time, both quality and inclusiveness in education are impacted by the context in which children are learning. When the surrounding world is unsafe and uncertain, a pre-condition for children to learn is to ensure a protective environment. Therefore one key priority is a holistic cross-sectoral response that includes access to health care, psychosocial support and protection measures as part of education efforts.

COVID-19 has indeed added a double concern to education in emergencies. A concern that only further stresses the need to develop resilient education systems that are able to deliver quality education in crisis contexts. Be it pandemics, natural disasters or wars. A significant element is to ensure that we reach those furthest behind by using innovative and context-specific methods for distance learning. It is also important that we consider that education quality is not only about the number of children accessing education or learning outcomes, but also about teaching methods, curriculum and the social environment in schools between students and teachers, and students and their peers.

A particular concern for Denmark are the consequences that the school closures caused by COVID-19 have for both girls’ and women’s rights. We know that education is one key element to prevent social and gender norms that drive harmful practices. Where pre-COVID-19 projections showed that a decline in harmful practices could be reached, post-COVID-19 projections show that more girls will be exposed to female genital mutilation and child marriage. Therefore, quality education and establishing inclusive conditions for girls in schools through addressing harmful social and gender norms is a key priority for Denmark and also is the reason why we are part of the ECW gender reference group. The classroom reflects the surrounding society and the reverse is also true.  We must work at all levels to create inclusive conditions for girls’ access to school.

As a Member of Parliament, you have been the Chairman of the Committee on Research, Education and Further Education. What does education represent for you on a more personal level? How does this influence you in your work as a policymaker? 

RP: I could not be a bigger champion of education and skills development: this is the key to create the hope for a better future. I have immense respect for the potential offered by education at all levels to change norms in a positive way. This is why I have been preoccupied with education since my early youth. I have myself worked as a high school teacher for 8 years. I have also been a teacher in the Danish folk high schools (“højskoler”), which is an education institution invented in the 1830s with the aim to help people qualify as active members of society with the means to change the political situation and meet across social borders.

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EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT INTERVIEWS HENRIETTA H. FORE, UNICEF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

In just a few months, COVID-19 has upended the lives of children around the world. It represents not only a threat to their health — but to their education, as schools close their doors worldwide, and to their safety, as the combined socio-economic impacts of job losses, isolation and containment measures put children at increased risk of abuse, exploitation and violence.

Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF. Photo © UNICEF/UN0154449/Nesbitt

Henrietta H. Fore became UNICEF’s seventh Executive Director on 1 January 2018. She has worked to champion economic development, education, health, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in a public service, private sector and non-profit leadership career that spans more than four decades.

From 2007 to 2009, Ms. Fore served as the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Director of United States Foreign Assistance. The first woman to serve in these roles, she was responsible for managing $39.5 billion of U.S. foreign assistance annually, including support to peoples and countries recovering from disaster and building their futures economically, politically and socially.

Earlier in her career at USAID, Ms. Fore was appointed Assistant Administrator for Asia and Assistant Administrator for Private Enterprise (1989-1993). She served on the Boards of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. In 2009, she received the Distinguished Service Award, the highest award the Secretary of State can bestow. Read full bio >>

Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, speaks with children at the Umm Battah Girls School in Kadugli, the capital city of South Kordofan State, Sudan.

ECW. Before we talk about education, can you tell us how UNICEF is responding to the current COVID-19 pandemic?

Henrietta H. Fore. In just a few months, COVID-19 has upended the lives of children around the world. It represents not only a threat to their health — but to their education, as schools close their doors worldwide, and to their safety, as the combined socio-economic impacts of job losses, isolation and containment measures put children at increased risk of abuse, exploitation and violence. In communities worldwide, you can find UNICEF staff members working around the clock to provide emergency education kits, distance learning opportunities, lifesaving information about handwashing and sanitation, and psychosocial counselling to affected children. We are also working with governments to strengthen health systems, and better manage the disease as the outbreak spreads. We are sparing no effort to give this global health emergency the attention and resources it deserves.

ECW. You have served all your life leading and championing humanitarian and development issues, not the least education. What drives you?

Henrietta H. Fore. I’m driven by the futures of children. Everywhere I travel, even in the most difficult circumstances — in conflicts and natural disasters, in communities plagued by extreme poverty or discrimination — I meet children and young people whose eyes and faces are lit with hope for the future. They tell me about their dreams and aspirations. They want to contribute to their families and economies. Even those living in the most difficult circumstances are not passive victims. They are determined to build their own futures. But they need the right tools and support. Providing quality education to every child in every context is not only a basic human right — it is essential to bringing their dreams to life and to sustaining progress and even peace for all of humanity in the future.

ECW. What is the scale of the current crisis, and how does it relate to our collective efforts to reach SDG 4?

Henrietta H. Fore. The Sustainable Development Goals’ call for “education for all” must mean exactly that — education for all. Even those children whose education is interrupted by, or non-existent because of, conflicts and natural disasters. As Education Cannot Wait reminds us, there are currently about 75 million children in urgent need of educational support across 35 crisis-affected countries. In fact, the countries furthest away from achieving SDG 4 are all crisis-affected. In other words — we will not reach this goal if we fail to reach precisely these children. In these humanitarian emergencies, children’s education suffers first, when schools are closed or destroyed, and education is interrupted. Also, they are especially vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and exploitation. We must never forget that a generation of young people is at stake — tomorrow’s leaders, tomorrow’s citizens, tomorrow’s caretakers of our world. We cannot afford to let them down — at any stage of their education, no matter what barriers we must overcome to reach them.

ECW. UNICEF oversees multiple sectors and is the lead agency on education in emergencies. Why is delivering education in emergencies so important – as important as water, nutrition, medicine and other services? Why is it important to recognize education as a lifesaving intervention at times of humanitarian crisis?

Henrietta H. Fore. A child’s right to an education does not change because of a crisis. In fact, it is just important as every other need, and can even improve outcomes in other sectors. For example, schools provide a place for children to learn more than reading and math. They also learn healthy behaviours, such as the importance of proper nutrition and hand-washing to prevent disease. Schools also create a safe and secure learning environment during times of insecurity and crisis, providing a needed sense of normalcy, continuity and safety for children that have seen and experienced often traumatic events. So education not only provides a pathway for children to build and fulfil their potential — it can have multiplier effects that can help young people stay safe and healthy.

ECW. We have recently witnessed important steps to present a consolidated UN response to the wellbeing and education of children caught in emergencies and crises. How do you see the role of UNICEF in strengthening co-ordination between relevant UN partners, civil society and private sector to ensure continuity, inclusion and real learning in complex emergencies?

Henrietta H. Fore. UNICEF is uniquely placed to bring partners together to serve children living through emergencies. We have over 790 education staff members spread across 144 countries — the single-largest global education presence of any international agency. This deep presence allows UNICEF to help countries expand access to quality education, even for the most marginalized children, such as those young refugees fleeing conflicts across borders. UNICEF is also the largest provider of education in emergencies in humanitarian response and, together with Save the Children, we are leading an IASC cluster co-ordination group on education. Together, we are working to ensure that all of our national and global partners are working as one to deliver quality education to children in emergencies.

On 3 March 2020 in the Syrian Arab Republic, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore speaks with students at Tal-Amara school in southern rural Idlib.

ECW. UNICEF hosts a number of global funds and initiatives, including the Education Cannot Wait Fund. As a member of Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Steering Group, how do you see Education Cannot Wait’s contribution to advancing SDG4 in crisis situations?

Henrietta H. Fore. Initiatives like Education Cannot Wait are gathering partners around the urgent and complex needs of children facing some of the world’s worst realities. ECW’s financing efforts are particularly important, enabling partners on the ground to act quickly to fill the gap between humanitarian and development funding, while building stronger school systems for the future. This is critical, especially when we consider that only about two per cent of overall humanitarian funding is currently dedicated to education. We must work to ensure that we use ever dollar for education wisely and strategically, while at the same time turning up the volume on this education emergency to draw even more funding and resources.

ECW. A major priority is that of girls’ education, especially for girls left furthest behind in conflicts, natural disasters and forced displacement. How can we reach these girls by 2030? How can we accelerate our joint efforts during the Decade of Action?  

Henrietta H. Fore. On this issue, we cannot be complacent. Despite progress, 130 million girls are still out of school around the world. Even those who gain a primary education are still vulnerable to dropping out and being unable to continue their education beyond that level. And many girls who finish primary school are contending with poor quality education, and will not meet minimum proficiency in reading by the time they finish. This is not only an injustice — it’s a huge missed opportunity for development. Educating girls not only combats poverty, it also ensures better maternal and child health. That’s why UNICEF is bringing together partners around solutions like flexible learning for girls trapped by crises, and investments in school facilities — like separate toilets and safe learning spaces — to keep them learning. The Decade of Action depends on accelerating our progress through efforts like these, and we will not stop until every girl gets the education she needs and deserves.

ECW. As an inspirational global leader, what is your message to children and youth, many of whom you have met, who dream of an education, as they suffer the brunt of conflicts and disasters?

Henrietta H. Fore. My message to them is simple: education can never be taken from you. It is yours. It is portable. It will give purpose to your hands, hearts and dreams, wherever you may travel. Even as you face these crises and disasters, remember that millions of people are standing with you in your hour of need — donors, governments, activists, organizations like UNICEF, partnerships like Education Cannot Wait, NGOs, businesses and community leaders. Together, we are working around the clock to design, fund and deliver programmes to ensure you have the tools you need to shape your minds and your futures. We will not leave you behind.

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CIVIL SOCIETY: A DYNAMIC FORCE IN THE GLOBAL EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT MOVEMENT

Education Cannot Wait interviews Birgitte Lange, CEO Save the Children Norway and Civil Society Organization Representative to the ECW High-Level Steering Group

Colombian and Venezuelan children involved in play-based learning with their teacher. Birgitte Lange recently visited the Colombia-Venezuela border to see first hand the impact of ECW’s investment being implemented by Save the Children. Photo: Kristoffer Moene Rød /Save the Children

Education Cannot Wait interviews Birgitte Lange, CEO Save the Children Norway and Civil Society Organization Representative to the ECW High-Level Steering Group

Birgitte Lange is a leading champion in the global movement to ensure children and youth living in protracted crises and emergencies have access to the safety, hope, opportunity and protection of a quality education. The CEO of Save the Children Norway, and Civil Society Organization Representative for Education Cannot Wait’s (ECW) High-Level Steering Group, recently took part in a mission to the Colombia-Venezuela border to see first-hand the impact of ECW’s investments and partnerships. In this Q&A, Lange explores new ways to partner with civil society to push the movement forward and achieve the commitments from the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit.

ECW. Our Director Yasmine Sherif always says, “we are all ECW,” that we are working together towards the common goal of improving education for children affected by crisis. What do you think are the biggest challenges we face as a community and what is civil society’s unique role in taking on these challenges?

Birgitte Lange. Our major challenge is that 75 million children are deprived of their right to education as a result of crises and conflict. Even amongst these vulnerable children, some are more marginalized than others. Many factors, such as gender, social and economic status, disabilities and ethnic background affect a child’s opportunity to access quality education in a crisis.

Against the scale of this challenge, education remains significantly underfunded in emergencies.  Although we have seen improvements over the last years – including the establishment and funding of ECW – we are far behind what is needed. Adding to this, a lack of efficient coordination may delay operations and increase costs.

While states are responsible for upholding human rights, they are sometimes unable, or even unwilling, to provide safe, inclusive quality education to certain groups or in some geographical areas. In such cases, civil society often play a strong role in protecting rights and providing support for those in most need. Working with local communities, civil society is often able to bring left-behind children into school, or to work with local and national governments to promote inclusive and quality learning. Moreover, humanitarian organizations work based on the humanitarian principles and may often be the neutral force needed to facilitate access to education for diverse groups of children.

Civil society is also a strong advocacy and campaigning force for increased funding, and our operational experience working with communities, governments and agencies to deliver education in emergencies is valuable when making efforts to improve coordination and efficiency.

One example is the Education Consortium in Uganda, hosted by Save the Children, with 17 partners in the first year of implementation. This was the first ECW Multi-Year Resilience Programme (MYRP) to be designed and implemented and a radical shift from disjointed and short-term humanitarian responses towards more harmonized implementation. Through a joint civil society programme, the Consortium has effectively improved quality, technical harmonization and coordination, aligning with the Education in Emergencies Working Group. The ECW programme is one of the major contributing factors to an increase in the primary gross enrolment ratio for refugee children from 53 to 72 per cent.

On the visit, Lange met with children at a temporary learning centre in Maicao settlement, Colombia. The centre is supported through the ECW-financed multi-country response to the Venezuela regional crisis through Save the Children. Photo: Layla Maghribi / Save the Children

ECW. You were recently at the border between Venezuela and Colombia to see the response to the ongoing migration and refugee crisis. What were your main takeaways from the trip? What left you feeling hopeful about the work we are doing and the role of education?

Birgitte Lange. I was very impressed by the ECW-funded education response I saw at the border. There is an enormous need for access to quality education for migrant and refugee children from Venezuela, but also for children from the host communities. Adding to the complexity of the large and sudden increase in the number of children in the community, many of the refugees lack formal documentation, and children come from different ethnic groups with different cultures and languages.

I feel proud of the joint efforts of civil society and the Colombian government to secure children’s right to education at the border. I was excited to see CSO efforts to ensure bilingual education for children from ethnic minorities. I also got to visit a class where children were involved in meditation and mindfulness exercises. It made a deep impression on me to see these children learn techniques that can help them find a moment of peace in otherwise challenging living conditions. I also want to recognize how the Colombian authorities are welcoming Venezuelan children into their school system. I was left with the impression that the spirit and operational approach in this response is to draw on each other’s strengths and join forces to solve problems and improve the reach and quality of education. Whilst challenges remain, we have a lot to learn from the collective efforts of ECW, civil society and the Colombian government to provide safe, inclusive quality education at the border between Colombia and Venezuela.

ECW. As the representative of civil society organizations, what motivates you to be part of the ECW High-Level Steering Group? What do you hope to achieve?

Birgitte Lange. When we talk with children and parents in some of the toughest places on earth, their answers are clear, unambiguous – and surprising: Even when food is scarce, water is dirty and medical care non-existent, children tell us they want one thing above all else: the chance to go to school. This is an important driver for me.  We must listen to children and be accountable to delivering upon their needs and rights.

I am convinced that ECW is a crucial channel to provide funding for education in emergencies. At the High-Level Steering Group, I have the privilege to show-case the work that civil society undertakes across the world, every day, to ensure children affected by conflict and crises access education. On behalf of civil society, I have the opportunity to take part in shaping ECW’s strategy and priorities so that together we can deliver better education to more children.

What I would really like to see is that it becomes obvious for all humanitarian actors that education needs to be part of a rapid humanitarian response, and that education will receive the financial and human resources to fulfill every last child’s right to an education.

For ECW specifically, right now I find it important that we meet our shared commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 particularly in connection with enabling rapid responses that meet the needs of children through national organizations. We need to adopt ways to ensure more national organizations are clearly involved in decision making and can access ECW funding in the most streamlined and direct way possible. I would also like to see ECW create a stronger feedback and learning mechanism to ensure that good practices and learning are systematically captured, transparently shared or applied by ECW and partners.

ECW. What are civil society’s main priorities for education in emergencies throughout 2020?

Birgitte Lange. One priority globally, is to follow up on commitments ECW made at the Global Refugee Forum at the end of last year. Save the Children played a central role in facilitating the joint pledge from ECW, the Global Partnership for Education and the World Bank, and feel a responsibility to follow up on its delivery.

Civil society will also play our watch dog role when it comes to other commitments, such as donor commitments to the ECW, and we will support ECW in its ongoing resource mobilization. Moreover, we will push for ECW to meet its commitment to spend 10 per cent of its funding on early childhood education, as we know that early care and development lays the foundation for learning in later years.

We will continue to learn from both the successes and challenges of delivering education in emergencies and continue to strive to ensure that tax-payer money is spent wisely to meet our collective goals of delivering quality education to all children and youth in emergencies.

ECW. Why is it so important that we recognise education as a vital intervention at times of humanitarian crisis?

Birgitte Lange. Education is a human right that needs to be fulfilled, no matter where a child lives or under which circumstances. Also, when we ask children themselves, children of all ages tell us that they see education as the key to their safety, their health, their happiness and their future.

Education provides protection in crises. Being in school or a temporary learning center can provide physical protection from armed conflict and possible abuse happening outside the learning site. Going to school can prevent children – typically boys – from being recruited to armed forces, and it can prevent children – typically girls – from being married early or under-age. Quality education also provides psycho-social protection and social-emotional support through activities at the learning site, and by providing a sense of normality in a perhaps otherwise chaotic situation where the regular rhythm of everyday life is disturbed. It strengthens well- being and children’s resilience to cope with the challenging environment. Children also tell us that being able to continue learning gives them hope for the future.

About Birgitte Lange

Birgitte Lange is the CEO of Save the Children Norway. She plays a leading role in Save the Children’s global work for education and child rights.

Birgitte Lange has a background in political science with a Master’s degree in comparative politics. She has held several senior management positions including as Deputy Director General for the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration and Director General of the Ministry of Culture. She has worked in the field of child welfare for several years, both at ministerial level and in another NGO.

Birgitte Lange is the author of several books and is a columnist on management issues in the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv.

Education Cannot Wait Interview with Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown

Interview with Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Steering Group



As the world marks the second International Day of Education on 24 January 2020, Education Cannot Wait’s Director, Yasmine Sherif, interviewed one of today’s most prominent and passionate advocates for the global movement to ensure education for all. In his role as UN Special Envoy for Global Education and as Chair of the ECW High-Level Steering Group, Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown has successfully galvanized financial and political support globally with the hope and opportunity of quality education for every child in this world.



1. You are the leading global advocate for education worldwide. What inspired you to take on the cause of education out of so many issues facing our world?  

I’m just one of many who realized that – as the Education Commission concluded – education unlocks not only individual opportunities, but also unlocks gender equality, better health, better qualities of life and a better environment. The Education Commission’s report illustrates how education is the very foundation for unlocking all other Sustainable Development Goals. For example, I am struck by the fact that infant and maternal mortality can be as much as twice as high among uneducated women compared to those who are educated, and I continue to be shocked by several brutal facts:

  • 260 million school-age children are not in school
  • 400 million children are completely out of education for good at age 11 or 12
  • 800 million children are leaving the education system without any qualifications worth their name 

In fact, it’s even worse than that: In 2030, we could be as far away from meeting SDG4 as we currently are, unless we act decisively together, now. One reason why the situation is so grave is that today there are 75 million children and youth in need of urgent education support in crisis-affected countries, of whom 20 million are internally displaced children and 12 million are child refugees. Indeed, only a fraction – 1 to 3 per cent – of refugees go on to higher education, whereas, for example, in pre-conflict Syria it used to be 20%. That is why Education Cannot Wait (ECW) is so crucial to meeting SDG4. We need action now. It simply cannot wait if we are to meet the target by 2030.
 
2. As the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, what is your vision for some of the key multilateral actions, such the UN, EU and the World Bank to achieve SDG4 by 2030?

We need a renewed focus on education and we need resources, response and reform. We set up the Global Education Forum, working with UNESCO, to ensure that we have maximum coordination of our efforts between the UN, EU and the World Bank and we will soon outline plans for raising the profile of global education in countries across the world. 
 
As humanitarian crises and refugee flows are multiplying at an unprecedented speed, it is critically important to fund ECW’s investments delivering quality education to children and youth impacted by armed conflicts, forced displacement and natural disasters. Furthermore, and in partnership with these actors, we have set up the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd). Through IFFEd, we are aiming for $10 billion in extra funds for educational investment. Currently, we are now around $2-2.5 billion. To achieve our goal, we have to secure the support of more countries.   

3. What do you see as the biggest challenges in ensuring that every child and young person has continued access to a quality education and what are the priorities to meet those challenges?
 
Quality education is crucial. As I said, we need resources, speed in the response during crisis and long-term reform to succeed.
 
Children and youth affected by emergencies and crisis cannot be out of school or wait for a decent education for years simply because a crisis has erupted in their country. As a matter of fact, education is their only hope and opportunity to be able to sustain conflicts and disasters. By the same token, every crisis-affected country needs human capital to rebuild and recover.
 
We need to train and properly remunerate teachers. Teachers are so important – no one ever forgets their teachers and teachers are the key to improved school standards. We also need the best school leaders serving as head teachers. We need a more relevant curriculum.  We need to use technology more effectively, especially in outlying areas – to ensure children are not denied the input and the resources they need for a good education. We need to use technology effectively not just for school education, but for higher educational opportunities that could be both on-line and tutor-led.  

4. You are also the Chair of the High-Level Steering Group of the Education Cannot Wait Global Fund, which was created during the World Humanitarian Summit largely thanks to your leadership. Education Cannot Wait is a rather unique name. How did you come up with such name and why did you think this fund was necessary?
 
I saw the urgency and the need for speed in situations of crisis and forced displacement. Education in countries affected by conflicts and disasters was falling between two stools – humanitarian aid, which prioritized health, food and shelter, with hardly any resources allocated for education – AND development aid, which is more long-term and often is slow to react to a crisis. Millions of children and young people were left behind with no education, no hope and no means of bouncing back and plan for their future.
 
Education Cannot Wait was established at the World Humanitarian Summit to inspire political support and mobilize the resources that we lacked. It was also established to bring together both humanitarian and development actors to jointly provide the crucial flow of educational support for children and youth impacted by crises. And so far it has worked! It is a fast moving fund that is focused to bringing education to the most difficult humanitarian contexts. We now have investments in over 30 countries.
 
One example is the comprehensive Uganda Education Response Plan for Refugees to give support to South Sudanese and other refugees – where all organizations have come together and where we are providing support to the government in mainstreaming refugee education. This is important because the common impression people have of refugees is that they are only out of their country for a short time. But in fact, the average humanitarian crisis now lasts more than nine years, and families caught up in conflicts spend an average of 17 years as refugees. For far too many children, this mean being a refugee throughout their entire school age years. So, they need help with education now. It cannot wait until a conflict or crisis has ended and they can return home.



5. How do you see the Education Cannot Wait Global Fund progressing in advancing UN reform, the New Way of Working and making a real difference for children and youth in conflicts, disasters and forced displacement?
 
I think we are learning all the time. We now see that education in emergencies and protracted crises requires joint programming where governments, UN agencies, civil society organizations, and private sector organizations work cooperatively together to bridge the gap between humanitarian and development systems. Education Cannot Wait brings all these actors together through one joint programme whereby humanitarian and development activities are coordinated and complementary towards collective outcomes. This in turn accelerates delivery and strengthens the collective capacity to produce real learning outcomes.
 
Since Education Cannot Wait is situated in the UN, it is well placed to translate the New Way of Working, the Grand Bargain and Humanitarian-Development coherence into very tangible action in-country. It is encouraging to see how education in emergencies and protracted crises is now playing such an instrumental role in setting an example. In Uganda, for instance, the Education Response Plan for Refugees is now modeling response plans and joint programming in other sectors, such as health. Education Cannot Wait has developed a crisis-sensitive formula that is not only aligned with, but also has the potential of supporting the New Way of Working across the SDG Agenda.
  
6. What are the three most important value-adds of the Education Cannot Wait Global Fund?

Education Cannot Wait was born in an era when we couldn’t provide for Syrian refugees an education without new ideas and coordination. One of them was double-shift schools. With refugees dispersed across Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, the idea was conceived to share existing schools, so that in Lebanon 300,000 or so Syrian refugee children are educated in their native Arabic in the afternoons in the same classrooms that Lebanese children are taught French and English in the mornings. We were creating the wheel in developing plans like the RACE plan in Lebanon with all of the donors and partners, and were determined to create a system that could provide rapid education delivery and medium term planning and financing in emergencies.
 
Education Cannot Wait works with governments, while supporting vulnerable populations, such as refugees, internally displaced, war-affected, marginalized groups, girls and children with disabilities. As a global fund, ECW was designed to reduce bureaucracy and strengthen accountability towards these children and youth. Hosted by UNICEF, the fund is able to operate with speed and quickly access those left furthest behind in crisis areas thanks to a business model and support mechanisms designed for crisis-contexts. A major added value is the way in which ECW serves as a catalyst for humanitarian-development coherence in the education sector.  This is quite unique.

7. You also conceived of the International Financing Facility for Education (IFFEd). How did it come about and how can it become a game-changer? What makes it different and how can it be optimized in cooperation with partners?

There are 200 million children in low income countries and what the World Bank has done by enhancing IDA is make more resources available from the international community. In theory, IDA could raise educational aid from $1.6 billion to $3.5 billion over the next few years and we’ve advocated that education in low incomes countries should be 15 per cent of all IDA spent.
 
But there’s a gap that hurts the 700 million children in lower middle-income countries where we have the most out-of-school children and the largest number of refugees. Here, the World Bank provides not 10 or 15 per cent of its resources for education but around 4 per cent, and sadly, the recapitalization of the World Bank – while successful – has also created a ceiling limiting the future availability of new resources.
 
Therefore, with World Bank support, we are creating a new fund for education that will focus resources and financing help for the 700 million children in lower middle-income countries, on similar terms that the World Bank offers, but with far more resources. 
 
We aim to raise $10 billion, which would require $2 billion in guarantees and perhaps $2 billion in grants to create four to five times as many resources for investment in education. This will be of special help to countries where there are large numbers of forcibly displaced persons, including refugees. 
 
8. How do you see the complementarity between the International Financing Facility for Education, the Education Cannot Wait Global Fund and the Global Partnership for Education?

Each of us have complementary jobs to do in a synchronized way. The chair of  GPE, Julia Gillard, was a member of our Education Commission, which recommended the new facility. GPE does important work – thankfully with increased resources after their recent replenishment – and this work, mainly in low-income countries, is complemented by what is offered through IFFEd.
 
Education Cannot Wait provides a different business model. It is grounded in the UN system’s ability to move with speed in crises, while also applying a crisis-sensitive development response, which is so important to reach SDG4 for those left furthest behind. It is no longer a start-up fund, but is growing rapidly in outreach and influence. So funding needs to continue to increase to complement other funds, such as GPE and IffEd. 

9. In your view, where will we be in 2030? Will we still be in a global education crisis or will we have resolved it?

One of the tragedies is that while the numbers of qualified young people have risen, still less than 25 per cent will have any recognizable qualifications by 2030. More than 27 per cent will have left school by the age of 11 or 12 years, or have ever been at school. This educational divide between the ‘education-poor’ and the ‘education-rich’ will only grow and what worries me most in this regard is Africa. I’ve  already shared earlier on in this interview the shocking figures for 2030, but worse still, Africa will see a rise in ‘out-of-school’ and in ‘unqualified school-leavers’, unless we act now. To inspire such action, we must share the data, show how challenging the situation is and propose the solutions that are so desperately need now and which all funds can help provide. 
 
10. Any final thoughts as we enter the Decade for Action? How do we best translate the vision of SDG4 into action in the coming 10 years?

We must become the first generation in history where every child goes to school. 
 
Instead of just developing some of the talents of some of the young people in some of the countries, we must develop all the talents of all young people in all countries. I am very conscious that universal education cannot be achieved unless we include the 75 million crises-affected children and youth whose education cannot wait. Their needs must be met if we are to meet SDG4 and achieve the noble objective that no one is left behind. 
 
I am a great believer in the power of young people. We have seen this in the global march against child labor, by girls getting together to prevent child marriages, and through the work of global youth ambassadors in UNICEF, UNHCR and Their World who are an effective pressure group for change.
 
We must enlist students and parents and we must put pressure on both national governments and international institutions to achieve change. Politicians say that adjudicating is their top priority, but the current state of financing for education does not yet recognize this; some countries spend only 2 per cent of their national income on education.
 
We must have a coalition of education advocates that ensures that governments and international institutions take action when they say education is a priority. This must start by acknowledging how far behind we have been in securing education for crisis-affected children, including refugee and displaced children. Their needs and aspirations must be at the forefront of our thoughts.
 
We know that hope dies when a food convoy does not get through to refugees or a boat carrying them is lost at sea – but hope also dies when education is denied to children who desperately want and need it, and who cannot prepare for, nor plan for, their future. We must restore that sense of hope in the future for every child and young person living in abject poverty, on the margins of their societies or in countries of war, as refugees or affected by sudden disasters. We cannot leave any child or young person behind.  
 

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About Education Cannot Wait

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) is the first global, multi-lateral fund dedicated to education in emergencies. It was launched by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to address the urgent education needs of 75 million children and youth in conflict and crisis settings.

Follow us on Twitter: @EduCannotWait
Additional information is available at www.educationcannotwait.org 
 
For press inquiries:
Kent Page, kpage@unicef.org, +1-917-302-1735
Anouk Desgroseilliers, adesgroseilliers@un-ecw-org, +1-917-640-6820

For any other inquiries: 
info@un-ecw.org  

‘WHY EDUCATION IN EMERGENCIES & CRISES IS CRUCIAL FOR CHILDREN’: NORWAY’S MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, DAG INGE ULSTEIN

ECW’s Q&A with a global leader committed to reaching the furthest behind first

Minister Ulstein on his recent visit to the Mopti region in Mali. Photo: Ane Lunde/Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

ECW: Minister Ulstein, you announced a significant new contribution of NOK 500 million (about US$55 million) from Norway to Education Cannot Wait, the Global Fund for Education in Emergencies, during the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York. Can you explain why you think it is important to support this relatively new multilateral funding mechanism dedicated to supporting education for children and youth caught up in crises worldwide?

Minister Ulstein: As Education Cannot Wait (ECW) has highlighted, when a crisis erupts, education is often the first service to be lost and the last to be resumed. We cannot afford to neglect education in emergencies. Schooling not only gives children and youth the skills and knowledge they need to rebuild their society once a crisis is over; it also offers them protection and a sense of normality in an otherwise chaotic and traumatic situation.

I believe there are two main challenges that have to be overcome in order to reach children and youth in emergencies. First of all, the current level of financing is inadequate. Secondly, ensuring quality education for all, in line with SDG 4, is essentially a long-term endeavour and requires both predictable financing and unwavering commitment. ECW is in a good position to address both these challenges.

ECW is a key partner in our efforts to ensure education for the most marginalised children and youth. I am therefore pleased that the Norwegian Government will contribute NOK 500 million to Education Cannot Wait for the period 2019-2022. 

ECW: Just before the General Assembly, you travelled to Mali with the Director of Education Cannot Wait, Yasmine Sherif, where you met communities displaced by the surge of violence in the centre of the country and witnessed the work of the Fund’s partners on the ground to provide education and psycho-social support to children and youth affected by the crisis. What motivated you to undertake such a field visit and what were your main takeaways?

Minister Ulstein: For years, there has been a complex emergency in Mali. The ongoing conflict and a series of natural disasters have led to an education crisis with 285 000 out-of-school children. The Malian Government made it clear that the provision of education is severely affected by the ongoing crisis and that there are substantial unmet needs in this area. The majority of out-of-school children are in the Mopti region, where ECW recently began its first response interventions.

It was important for me to visit Mopti together with ECW’s Executive Director Yasmine Sherif, to learn more about the education situation for children and youth in this region. Listening to the stories of children who had been forced to leave their homes was a real eye-opener. It was evident that education plays an incredibly important role in their lives.

ECW: Despite some progress and increased funding by strategic donors and partners to support education aid in recent years, we are still off-track to ensure quality and inclusive education for every child by 2030, as stated by Sustainable Development Goal 4. How can we turn the tide and deliver learning opportunities to the millions of children and youth enduring armed conflicts, disasters and forced displacement?

Minister Ulstein: SDG 4 is a promise of quality education for all. We will not be able to reach SDG 4 by 2030 unless we increase our efforts to reach children and youth in crisis and conflict situations. While we have many challenges ahead of us, we can see that education has become a greater priority in emergency response. Education efforts are not only about reaching SDG 4, but are also a vehicle for reaching other SDGs and are closely linked to efforts to meet other humanitarian needs. My impression is that awareness of these interlinkages has increased in recent years.

ECW has played a key role in this shift by putting education in emergencies at the top of the agenda. It has mobilised substantial funding and presents new and promising ways of delivering education in emergencies. ECW’s programmes offer predictable and flexible funding, and promote a better coordinated and more holistic education response. At the same time, achieving SDG 4 is a national responsibility and it is therefore important that education aid, including ECW’s programmes, support governments’ work in this area.

Minister Ulstein and ECW Director Yasmine Sherif with children displaced by violence in the Mopti region, Mali. Photo: A. Desgroseilliers/ECW 

ECW: You took office at the beginning of the year as Norway’s Minister of International Development. How much of a priority is education in Norway’s international aid efforts? What are your key priorities, in particular for the education sector?

Minister Ulstein: Norway has substantially increased its aid to education since 2013, and education remains one of the key priorities in our aid efforts. Prime Minister Erna Solberg is a vocal champion of the right to education, especially for girls. We have taken on a leading role in mobilising increased financing for education, including education in emergencies.

Education can be one of the most effective ways of promoting inclusion. We know that marginalised groups such as children and youth with disabilities are generally less likely to attend school, and even more so in crisis and conflict situations. I am pleased that ECW reached 14 000 children with disabilities in 2018. However, we know that we have yet to reach many more marginalised children and youth. Going forward, we need to give greater priority to reaching the furthest behind first.

ECW: Norway has been among the very first supporters of Education Cannot Wait – right from the inception of the Fund at the World Humanitarian Summit. Now that the Fund has been operational for more than 2 years, do you think it is delivering on its promises?

Minister Ulstein: I am pleased to see that ECW provided learning opportunities for more than 1.5 million children and youth who were caught up in 18 of the world’s most devastating humanitarian crises in 2018. I am particularly impressed by the number of multi-year resilience programmes that have been initiated. ECW’s approach is helping to bridge the gap between humanitarian and long-term aid in the field of education. ECW also promotes quality and learning outcomes from the outset of a crisis. At the same time, ECW plays an important role by providing support to education when a crisis suddenly arises or escalates, and education services need to be rapidly restored.

ECW: How do you see the role of Education Cannot Wait in the education aid architecture?

Minister Ulstein: ECW is one of several important partners in the field of education, many of which also play an important role in emergency response. It is crucially important that the various organisations work effectively together. ECW is a strong advocate for the right to education for millions of children and youth caught in emergencies and protracted crises. ECW is promoting inter-agency partnerships as an efficient way of delivering education in emergencies at the country level.

Minister Ulstein with Grammy Award nominated rapper and Global Citizen Ambassador French Montana at the “Leave No One Behind: Accelerating the SDGs through Quality Education — Two New Initiatives” event at this year’s UN General Assembly. Photo: E.Bahaa/ECW

Learn more about Minister Ulstein and Norway’s international development and development cooperation efforts.

ECW INTERVIEW WITH ALLEGRA BAIOCCHI – A HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR COMMITTED TO EMERGENCY EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN IN CAMEROON

Allegra Baiocchi is the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Cameroon.

The UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Cameroon shares insights on the current humanitarian situation, the importance of education for children caught in emergencies and the crucial role of ECW’s support to the emergency response in the country.

ECW: As the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Cameroon, you have shown an exemplary commitment to education for children and youth. Could you please describe their situation, challenges and opportunities?

Allegra Baiocchi: The situation in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon is dire for all school-aged children. Hundreds of thousands of children have been out of school for nearly three full years. More than 80 per cent of schools have been closed and enrolment is reduced by 40-80 per cent in most of the schools that remain operational. This means that around 950,000 children have been forced to leave school. 9 out of 10 children are currently out of school in both regions.

Conflict-affected out-of-school children are exposed to a myriad of severe crisis-related protection risks including sexual exploitation and abuse, gender-based violence, harassment and recruitment by armed forces or armed groups, prostitution, arbitrary arrest, early marriage and pregnancy and child labour.

Children in the North-West and South-West regions have also been exposed to numerous traumatic incidents including witnessing violence from military and/or non-state armed groups, destruction of homes and villages, torture and killings, and mass displacement. After three years of conflict, children are suffering from prolonged toxic stress which has had a severe impact on their well-being and has diminished children’s natural resilience.

Children require urgent support to manage their emotions, understand the normal reactions they are having to an abnormal situation, and improve their psychosocial well-being and resilience through play-based learning and positive social interactions with peers and adult role models. It is imperative to provide children with safe, inclusive and protective learning environments as a first step to reduce exposure to harm and to re-establish a routine and a sense of normalcy.

ECW: How do you see the education sector in relation to other sectors, in achieving the Global Goals, and what importance does it have to you in leading the UN country team and humanitarian community in Cameroon?

Allegra Baiocchi: Education is a fundamental right and is also essential to achieve the 17 Global Goals; nothing should restrict children’s access to quality learning. Education is also a main vehicle for development and is essential to reduce poverty and inequality, to strengthen peace and institutions, to increase economic growth and to improve the overall well-being of populations.

The UN team and the humanitarian community are highly concerned about the current situation. What will be the future for an entire generation of children when so many are out of school? In recent years, Cameroon’s school enrolment rates for both boys and girls has been increasing as a result of development policies. As humanitarians, we must pursue all possible avenues for providing access to quality education, even in circumstances in which education is under attack.

ECW: What is the funding situation for education in the humanitarian appeals and among donors in Cameroon, as well as globally towards Cameroon?

Allegra Baiocchi: The humanitarian response plan for Cameroon requires funding of US$298.9 million, but to date is only 19.7 per cent funded. Education is one of the worst funded sectors; prior to receiving Education Cannot Wait (ECW) funding, only 6 per cent of the financial requirement for education in North-West and South-West regions had been met. With ECW funding, 23 per cent of the funding gap will now be covered. Source : https://fts.unocha.org/appeals/718/summary

ECW: What made you reach out to Education Cannot Wait and what were your expectations?

Allegra Baiocchi: Because Education Cannot Wait is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises, it is essential for Cameroon to have the Fund’s support for the education response. This also helps underline education as a priority within the country humanitarian agenda.

Receiving funding and support from ECW is also important for advocacy, to raise the profile of the severity of the education crisis in the North-West and South-West regions. Not only is Cameroon’s humanitarian response the worst funded in Africa, but the education response for the North-West and South-West was almost entirely un-funded prior to receiving ECW support.

With Education Cannot Wait funding, we will be able to ensure 18,386 children have access to quality education; the vast majority of these children were previously out of school. This funding will also highlight the severity of the crisis and the humanitarian commitment to ensuring children are able to fulfil their right to education. It is hoped that this will encourage other international donors to also fund the education response so that we can reach significantly more children with subsequent funding.

ECW: How did you find the ECW response? Did it support you in your responsibilities as the RC/HC? What will the ECW investment do to (strategy and activities) to achieve change?

Allegra Baiocchi: Education Cannot Wait’s funding is aligned with the inter-agency humanitarian appeal and covers 23 per cent of the current funding gap for the North-West/South-West education response. It will support 18,386 children (of whom 9,505 are girls) of pre-primary, primary and secondary school age in accessing quality formal and non-formal education learning opportunities in the two regions.

This crucial grant will be implemented over the next 12 months by Plan International (US$750,000), UNESCO (US$1.1 million), the Danish Refugee Council (US$400,000) and the World Food Programme (US$500,000), in collaboration with the Government of Cameroon and the Cameroon Education Cluster.

Education activities will support the resumption and continuity of learning for crisis-affected children and youth – a majority of whom have been out of school for three years now. There will also be a focus on protection to reduce risks of exploitation, child labour, early marriage, early pregnancy and recruitment into armed forces and armed groups. Psychosocial support, school feeding programmes, vocational training for youth, community reintegration and school readiness will also be supported.

ECW: Any final words from your side?

Allegra Baiocchi: The situation for children in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon is alarming. Almost all schools have been closed and nearly all children are currently out of school. In an area of active conflict, this puts children in immediate danger – outside of a protective school environment, children are regularly exposed to traumatic incidents and are at risk of being directly harmed.

Hundreds of thousands of children have now missed all of secondary school or half of primary school. Illiteracy is on the rise. Families, communities and children themselves are losing all hope for the future. It is the responsibility of the humanitarian community to protect children’s right to education and to get these kids back on track with their learning. With Education Cannot Wait funding, this is what we will be doing.

ECW: Thank-you so much for your time and your dedicated efforts in Cameroon, Allegra.  

About Ms. Allegra Maria Del Pilar Baiocchi, Resident Coordinator of the United Nations system and Humanitarian Coordinator in Cameroon

Ms. Allegra Baiocchi is the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Cameroon, since July 18, 2017.

Prior to her appointment as the highest ranking United Nations official in Cameroon, Ms. Baiocchi held the position of Regional Representative for West and Central Africa for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), based in Dakar, Senegal.

Ms. Baiocchi has held several positions within the United Nations, she has also worked in NGOs and academia. She has held several international postings, including in Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Senegal, Sudan and South Sudan and at the UN Secretariat Headquarter in New York.

An Italian and Venezuelan bi-national, Ms. Baiocchi holds a Master’s degree in Political Science and Development Economics from the University of Rome, Italy. She speaks French, Spanish and English.

Follow @AllegraBaiocchi and @EduCannotWait to #Act4Ed in Crisis. 

DUBAI CARES COMMITTED TO CONTINUE INVESTING IN EDUCATION IN EMERGENCIES

Tariq Al Gurg shaking hands with Gordon Brown.
Tariq Al Gurg shaking hands with Gordon Brown.

PARTNER VOICES Q&A

‘EVERY CHILD IS BORN EQUAL AND EDUCATION IS EVERY CHILD’S BIRTH RIGHT’

A founding partner of Education Cannot Wait, Dubai Cares remains committed to funding education in emergencies through its growing global portfolio of philanthropic investments. With a total US$6.8 million in current contributions over four years, the philanthropic organization is a key contributor to the Education Cannot Wait global resource mobilization efforts, which focus on working with the private and philanthropic sectors, bilateral and multilateral donors, United Nations and civil society organizations, and country-level partners. Dubai Cares was a first responder joining Education Cannot Wait to rapidly fund the Rohingya refugees when arriving in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh in the early fall of 2017, providing an additional half-million US dollars to the Fund to allow for an immediate response to the emergency.

Through this broad coalition of stakeholders, Education Cannot Wait aims to mobilize US$1.8 billion by 2021 to reach 8.9 million children living in crisis and emergencies with quality education. Funding for education in emergencies has been historically low, but is slowly on the rise, with supporters like Dubai Cares helping to advocate for a global response to the glaring needs of children and youth caught in situations of crisis. In 2013, education in emergencies accounted for just 2 per cent of humanitarian aid. In 2018, it accounted for 4 per cent. Nevertheless, a major deficit remains and 75 million children living in crisis are still in need of educational support.

We connected with the CEO of Dubai Cares, Tariq Al Gurg, to learn more about the foundation’s key role in education in emergencies and why they’ve decided to dedicate a third of their resources to fill the gap that’s left millions of children behind worldwide. A leading global advocate for increased visibility and support for children left behind in fragile and crisis-affected countries, Al Gurg has been recognized by Irina Bokova, former director of UNESCO, for his role in transitioning Dubai Cares from a young philanthropic organization into a global leader in the international education arena.

Q. Dubai Cares is a founding partner of Education Cannot Wait, and a generous funder of the Fund’s efforts to deliver safe and reliable education to millions of children and youth living in emergencies and protracted crisis. As a foundation, can you tell us why Dubai Cares decided to invest its energies, resources and talents into the new global Fund?

A. As a philanthropic organization with no operational presence on the ground and limited direct access to populations in need in emergency and protracted crisis contexts, it is important for us that we support the partners best placed in each context to help deliver education to those most in need. The establishment of Education Cannot Wait as a new global fund for education in emergencies allows foundations like us to support a mechanism that enables improved delivery of education to children and young people displaced by conflicts, epidemics and natural disasters through a coordinated and collaborative effort that minimizes transaction costs and maximizes impact.

As a member of the High-Level Steering Group for Education Cannot Wait, Dubai Cares contributes to leveraging additional finance and catalyzing new approaches to funding and innovation to deliver education in emergencies and protracted crises. As a foundation representative, Dubai Cares aims to highlight the role foundations can play in supporting the global education in emergencies ecosystem and bridge the gap between traditional humanitarian funding mechanisms and private and philanthropic donors.

By supporting the secretariat costs of Education Cannot Wait, Dubai Cares remains committed towards increasing its effort to support the delivery of education in emergencies with the hope of reaching all crisis-affected children and youth with safe, free and quality education.

Q. Why is access to education for children living in crisis and conflict important for the economic future of our world in general? What do you think is the role of foundations and philanthropy in supporting quality learning for children and youth in crisis settings?

A. Never before in humankind’s history has the urgency for education in emergencies been more important. The positive impact of education on societies and future generations is undeniable. Education in emergencies and protracted crises has the power to provide physical, psychosocial, and cognitive protection that can sustain and save children’s lives.  Also, education in emergencies can help child soldiers, internally displaced persons, refugees and all those affected by emergencies to reintegrate back into society, and overcome the negative effects that emergencies can have on people. Schools can provide safe spaces for children to build friendships, play and learn. In addition, there is sufficient empirical evidence to prove the positive economic impact of education, as for every extra year a refugee child spends in school, their future income increases by 3 per cent.

Foundations and philanthropic organizations are not always best placed to fund emergency response interventions, whether in education or other sectors. Financing for education in emergencies must be quick. It must be available for immediate disbursement and be integrated into the existing humanitarian financing mechanisms; long-term and continuous; flexible and allocated to unconventional and traditional solutions; equitable and reach all children; and finally be directed to new and necessary evidence-based interventions. The mandates and annual funding cycles of foundations are often restrictive and they rarely have a detailed overview of who is best placed to respond in a particular emergency due to lack of direct access on the ground. Nonetheless, foundations and philanthropic organizations play a critical role in supporting the funding and coordination mechanisms in the larger education in emergencies ecosystem. Philanthropic funding for evidence generation, capacity building and global goods in the sector allows for targeted, measurable and high-impact investments that enable the entire education in emergencies system to deliver in a more coordinated and effective way. This is exactly why Dubai Cares supports the ECW secretariat.

Q. How can Dubai Cares, Education Cannot Wait and our partners work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and why is universal and inclusive access to education important?’

A. Dubai Cares is playing a key role in helping achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly goal number 4, which aims to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning by 2030, by supporting programmes in early childhood development, access to quality primary and secondary education, technical and vocational education and training for youth, as well as a particular focus on education in emergencies and protracted crises.

Every child is born equal and education is every child’s birth right; it is unacceptable that children, especially those living in developing countries, have to live in unhygienic conditions, go to school hungry, suffer from diseases and illnesses, work at a young age to support the family, and have little or no access to education, among others. Education equips children and young people with the capacities and qualities necessary to address the challenges that humanity is facing. Education builds sustainable and resilient societies and contributes to the achievement of the other SDGs. Education should be inclusive and universal in its principles and local in its impact.

Foundations along with both governments and the private sector can play a critical role in achieving the SDGs by sharing information, resources, and capabilities. Therefore, collaboration is key to fulfill the goals; it’s not the sole responsibility of one entity – we should altogether join our efforts for the common good. Our strategic partnership with Education Cannot Wait is testimony of the power of partnership to make a lasting change for the millions of children out of school due to conflict or crisis.

Q. How can we provide better access to education for refugees and why is this important?

Refugees face a particular situation with respect to being denied access to education. They are residents in a country different from their own, and have therefore limited, if any, access to their own country’s education system. Education for refugees needs to take place within accountable systems that provide certification to ensure valuable and relevant learning.

In addition, an emergency response should take into account physical protection through measures that include strengthening school infrastructure and providing a safe haven for learning. Moreover, teachers involved in the education of refugees need adequate training and regular pay. Emergency education supplies and materials are also needed to meet the cognitive, psychosocial and developmental needs of children in emergencies.

With all of the above, funding remains the most important aspect of support to ensure that every crisis-affected child and young person is in school and learning. This requires the coming together of grassroots activists and decision-makers from the corridors of power.

Q. Girls in crisis face increased risk of being left behind. How can we work to achieve more equitable and safe educational outcomes for girls and adolescent girls?

A. In some parts of the world, girls are still denied their fundamental right to education for different reasons, not to mention when girls are affected by emergencies. Girls are especially at risk, and are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school in countries affected by conflict than boys.

In order to help girls affected by emergencies, we need to provide girls with the necessary skills and tools to cope within or break the cycle of violence and contribute to their communities’ recovery. In particular, girls need education to take control of their own lives. An educated girl is better protected against gender-based risks, such as early marriage and pregnancy, abuse and exploitation, and also better prepared to be able to make the right choices for herself and her society. In addition, it is crucial to educate boys and men about gender equality by engaging them in promoting girls’ and women’s rights.

Q. Education Cannot Wait supports education responses in many crisis areas in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, including several Arab States. Why is it important to support education responses in these regions? How can it contribute to increasing security and prosperity in these regions?

A. Despite the growing number of children caught in conflict and natural disasters, statistics show only 2% of overall humanitarian aid is spent on education. This makes the needs of children living in fragile states an urgent priority for Dubai Cares.

When Syrian refugee children are forced to leave their homes due to the ongoing conflict or Nepalese children are displaced because of an earthquake or boys and girls in Sierra Leone are quarantined because of the Ebola outbreak, education is one of the first casualties and one of the last services to be restored.

Education in emergencies provides stability and security to refugee children, when everything else around them has collapsed. The classroom has proven to be a peaceful environment for children affected by emergencies. In addition, children gain life-saving skills and acquire critical information on health and safety that they in turn are able to share with their families and communities. Education in emergencies also reduces the psycho-social impact of trauma and displacement. It is also the first line of response for promoting the recovery and wellbeing of children and adolescents.

Q. What is the strategic value-ad of your partnership with Education Cannot Wait?

A. Education Cannot Wait is a first-of-its-kind fund that brings together public and private partners determined to work together, identify creative and collaborative solutions for Education in emergencies and mobilize the funding required to deploy rapid-response and – more importantly – multi-year programmes relevant to each specific crisis context.

Our involvement with Education Cannot Wait opens doors for us to connect directly with implementers, thus allowing us to receive first-hand and real-time information and reports on emergency situations and the required/recommended educational interventions, which we as a foundation would not normally have direct access to. ECW also represents a collaborative way of working that increases coordination and brings together the best minds from around the world to exchange opinions and ideas, broaden knowledge, share best practices, highlight challenges and formulate solutions.

This is specifically of importance to Dubai Cares as it connects us to businesspeople, leaders, employers, innovators, humanitarians and philanthropists who play a critical role in tackling Education in emergencies, from HQ level to the very closest level in the affected countries.

Q. Anything you would like to add?

A. More collaboration at country and thematic levels is key to support harmonized and effective coordination, joint planning, and response in Education in Emergencies programming. Due to the significant role education plays in the well-being of societies, it is of paramount importance that sufficient funding is allocated to this key pillar for the healthy advancement of civilization.

Tariq Al Gurg[1]