Elevating Education in Emergencies: The Protective Role of Education

Norway is determined in its efforts to ensure quality education for all, also in emergencies. Last week, on 6 June, Norway co-organised an event on the protective role of education in emergencies, together with Switzerland and the Global Education Cluster.

The meeting was the first in a series of four meetings on “Elevating Education in Emergencies”, which will unpack the central role of education in humanitarian response. It brought together representatives from both donor states and affected countries, in addition to a range of actors working to improve and ensure education in emergencies both in the field and through advocacy.

Ambassador Hans Brattskar opened the meeting by pointing to the 37 million children and youths who do not have access to education. We are here because education continues to be under-prioritized in humanitarian assistance, although we know that education provide life-saving protection and hope for the future,” stressed Brattskar.

"Education plays a critical role in times of conflict or natural disasters. It provides essential safety and security knowledge, in addition to social skills. When children’s education is interrupted the risk of being recruited to militant groups or prostitution increases. Education is also an investment in future peaceful thinking and solutions. Large groups of children missing out on education will slow economic growth and development. In fact, increased literacy among children would significantly reduce poverty in the future."

In 2013, Norway made a commitment to take a leading role in global efforts to achieve quality education for all. As a step in this process, Norway increased its own share of humanitarian assistance allocated to education from two to nine percent between 2013 and 2016. In line with this commitment, Norway played a leading role in the establishment of the Education Cannot Waitfund and the Safe Schools Declaration.

The Safe Schools Declaration has established a strong norm against the military use of schools and universities. The group of 37 countries that endorsed the Declaration in 2015 has increased to 75 today. Norway were among several states and organisations that highlighted the Declaration during the meeting.

Read more about the Safe Schools Declaration’s recent third anniversary celebrations here.

Yasmine Sherif, director of the Education Cannot Wait fund (ECW), emphasised the importance of including both the humanitarian and the development sectors in efforts to ensure education in emergencies. She underlined that ECW has been set up specifically for this purpose.

Ambassador Mamadou Henri Konate of Mali and Ambassador Audu Ayinla Kadiri of Nigeria participated and contributed with valuable insight to the discussion together with representatives from UNICEF and civil society. Dialogue between actors in affected countries can be key in improving coordination to ensure education in emergencies.

It is evident that efforts to put education in emergencies on the agenda has had visible effects. Global humanitarian funding is increasing, coordination is improving, and the norm against attacks on and military use of schools is getting greater recognition.

At the same time, it is clear that there is a continued need for greater focus on education in emergencies. Humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises continue to affect the education of millions of children and youth worldwide, with devastating consequences, particularly for girls. Violence against students, educational personnel, and their institutions is still widespread.

The importance of building resilience, investing in teachers and communities, and exploring innovative funding mechanisms were among the core messages from the meeting.

Norway reaffirms its commitment to follow up on this in order to ensure quality education for all, also in emergencies.

The next meeting in the Education in Emergencies series will be on the use of cash and will be held in November 2018.