“Education not only saves lives in emergencies, but it also sustains life by giving a sense of hope for the future”
Taking into consideration that, on the one hand, global forced displacement of refugees, internally displaced people and asylum seekers worldwide exceed 50 million people at the end of 2014; and that, on the other hand, the average conflict lasts 10 years and families remain in IDP camps for an average of 17 years, the failure to prioritize education in general, and higher education in particular in humanitarian response renders entire generations uneducated, developmentally disadvantaged and unprepared to contribute to their society’s recovery.
Higher education unleashes innovation and entrepreneurial skills that are important for economic activity and job creation elements critical for stability during times of reconstruction and for longer-term sustainable development. But this broader context of early recovery, in crisis and post-crisis settings, in order to build a stronger foundation for sustained recovery from crises in the long-term and to consolidate peace by preventing a relapse into conflict should be set up from day one of the humanitarian agenda. Why?
Because education sustains life by offering safe spaces for learning and by making it possible to identify and support seriously affected individuals, particularly children and youth. As studies clearly show education mitigates the psychoso¬cial impact of conflict and disasters by providing a sense of normalcy, stability, structure and hope for the future. Quality education can save lives by providing physical protection from the dangers and exploitation of a crisis environment.
In this regard, higher education plays a vital role in saving lives and giving a sense of hope for the future in the context of emergencies. It is higher education that will produce the leaders and skilled workforce that countries need to move forward, in particular after crisis and conflict.
Yet in humanitarian crises, higher education is too often neglected. Based on best practices and lessons learned with recent crises, namely with Iraq and Syria, there are a key number of questions that have to be addressed if we want to bridge the existing gap such as: how to integrate higher education opportunities into humanitarian responses? How to best coordinate interventions of actors on the ground? How to make financial resources available on time? How to organize and coordinate efforts for the effective implementation of quality programs of higher education during the emergency response?
What are the challenges universities face in conflict zones? To know more read the article: Universities in conflict zones: 'we face intimidation and arrests', by Louise Tickle, The Guardian.
16-17 December 2014 | Brussels, Belgium
In December 2014, an international Conference was co-organized by a set of stakeholders - the Council of Europe, the British Council, the League of Arab States, the Institute of International Education and the Global Platform for Syrian Students – to draw attention to the urgent need to reflect further on these key questions.
This Conference hosted by the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, brought together more than 100 participants from all walks of life – civil society organizations, Universities and associations of universities, international organizations, government representatives, aid and cooperation agencies, and the private sector - engaged in and committed to promoting higher education, in particular in emergency situations.
It explored the vital role of higher education in saving lives and giving a sense of hope for the future in the context of emergencies. Using the current Syrian crisis as an example, this ground-breaking Conference aimed to solidify a series of recommendations that may pave the way for some type of Rapid Response Mechanism for Higher Education in the event of natural disaster or armed conflict. The central idea is that, in humanitarian crises, education and in particular higher education is too often neglected. And yet, it is higher education that will produce the leaders and skilled workforce that countries need to move forward, in particular after crisis and conflict.
This Conference was planned as a starting point of a broader process that will continue in 2015 with a two-fold aim:
• On the one hand, to put higher education high on the post-2015 development agenda because missing this opportunity will mean that no real progress on the ground will be made in the next fifteen years. Exploring the various entry-points possibilities and making a strong advocacy campaign are top priority actions.
• On the other hand, further reflection on the international responsibility of protecting and rebuilding higher education in emergencies should continue. Exploring ways of making the international community endorse a call to action or a set of principles or hopefully commit to set up a rapid response mechanism for higher education in emergencies are questions that need to be further discussed and explored. Its inclusion in the post-2015 agenda should also be sought.
Annex: What Will Become of Syria's Students and Scholars?, By Allan E. Goodman (President and Chief Executive Officer, Institute of International Education) and Jorge Sampaio (President of the Portuguese Republic from 1996 to 2006; Chairman of the Global Platform for Syrian Students).
The year of 2015 marked good progress in terms of advocacy made by the GP4SYS at the international stage to raise awareness about the unique role higher education plays in conflict situations and the need for the international community to deliver more higher education opportunities for refugees, IDPs and young people facing crisis situations.
Following up on a first meeting convened in Brussels in December 2014, over 2015 the GP4SYS participated in a number of international meetings on the topic of higher education in emergencies, developed contacts at various levels to promote this cause, notably at political level through the leadership of President Sampaio, chairman of the GP4SYS, and launched a number of studies gathering information and data on higher education in emergencies.
EU/EEAS Seminar on Syria held in Brussels in January 2015.
From its side, the University of York organised in July 2015 a high level workshop aimed at developing an International Accord for the protection and rebuilding of higher education affected by conflict, crisis and transitions.
The Clinton Global Initiative organised a discussion on "Beyond Shelter, Water, and Food: Prioritizing Education in Emergency Response" (2015 September, 29) in the framework of its Annual Meeting 2015.
A High-Level Breakfast Meeting on: "Ensuring the Inclusion of the Right to Education in Emergencies in the Post-2015 Development Agenda" was organised by the Permanent Missions of Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Norway, Portugal, and Qatar to the UNwhich took place on Wednesday, 30 September 2015 at the United Nations HQ, New York.
Moreover, the GP4SYS participated in the Wise Summit organised in Doha in November 2015 by sending a video address.
Setting up a Rapid Response Mechanism for Higher Education in Emergencies. Know more.