After two years of worldwide consultations, last month over 9,000 participants came together in Istanbul for the first World Humanitarian Summit to chart the future course of humanitarian action. The Summit brought together 173 United Nations Member States, 55 Heads of State and Governments, some 350 private sector representatives, and over 2,000 people from civil society and non-governmental organizations.
This tremendous gathering of humanitarian practitioners, together with policymakers, created an historic opportunity to raise awareness about the important role that education plays in rebuilding lives during and after conflict, and its unique role in bridging an ever-present gap between humanitarian and development actors.
Education was at the forefront of the Summit proceedings with a series of side events addressing challenges and innovations in delivering education in emergencies and protracted crises. Jesuit Refugee Service, alongside UNRWA, the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), the Global Campaign for Education, TheirWorld and War Child, hosted one such event entitled Delivering Quality Education in Emergencies: What Needs to Be Done? This event featured practitioners, philanthropists and champions advocating on behalf of increasing access to a quality education for refugees and the forcibly displaced.
A Special Session on Education in Emergencies followed and featured the launch of Education Cannot Wait, which aims to transform the global education sector for children affected by crisis by focusing specifically on meeting their educational needs. This effort will both mobilize and coordinate support for these critical programs, which currently only receive two percent of humanitarian funding.
At the launch event, representatives from the United Kingdom ($43.8 million), the United States ($20 million), Norway ($11.2 million), the European Union ($5.6 million), the Netherlands ($7.8 million) and philanthropy Dubai Cares ($2.5 million) pledged just over $90 million to the new Fund. Other governments, including Canada and France, delivered supportive statements but have not yet made a financial commitment.
We applaud champions, including former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for spearheading efforts to launch Education Cannot Wait and for those donors who have supported this effort through their initial commitments. Yet, we must do more.
Education Cannot Wait has an initial goal of raising $150 million in its first year so that it can adequately begin to address gaps in delivering education programs to those in need. The next pledge “moment” may present itself at a Summit set to take place on September 20 in New York City during the UN General Assembly. The Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, organized by the Obama Administration, will take place on the margins of the UN General Assembly. The Summit will convene Heads of State and Government who have made new and significant commitments this year to address the global refugee crisis.
The collective goals of the Summit are to increase funding to international humanitarian organizations and UN humanitarian appeals; increase opportunities for resettlement and other forms of legal admission for refugees; and expand access to employment and education for refugees in major refugee-hosting states. By including education as a key outcome of this Summit, we can continue building momentum towards achieving goals set forth by Education Cannot Wait.
In the midst of the highest levels of forced displacement the world has seen since World War II, we are seeing unprecedented levels of political will to address these tremendous challenges. As we recognize the historic opportunity presented in the new Education Cannot Wait Fund and look towards this September’s Leaders’ Summit, we must continue to have at the forefront of our minds those individuals, families and communities we are seeking to serve by creating greater opportunity for a quality education.
Giulia McPherson is the Assistant Director for Policy at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. She leads the organization’s policy and advocacy efforts as they relate to global education and U.S. asylum policies and oversees a community engagement program to educate and mobilize advocates. Giulia can be reached at email@example.com or @giuliamcpherson.