On 4 February, 2016, the UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, took part in the Supporting Syria and the Region Conference, held in London.
Prime Minister David Cameron co-hosted the conference, alongside The Emir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Federal Chancellor of Germany, Ms Angela Merkel, the Prime Minister of Norway, Ms Erna Solberg and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The conference brought together world leaders from around the globe to mobilize international support in favor of the 13.5 million vulnerable and displaced people inside Syria, and the 4.39 million Syrian refugees.
In addition to pledging well over $10 billion, the international community sought to meet the longer-term needs of those affected by the crisis, to create new hope for people inside Syria, and refugees in the region.
In this context, Irina Bokova advocated for an increased focus on education for Syrian youth, and appealed for longer-term education funding commitments.
Outlining the immense challenges of the crisis, the Director-General underlined in particular the importance of education for ensuring a bright future for young Syrians, to restore hope and build long term stability for Syria and the region.
“We need to bridge the learning gap for the Syrian youth,” Irina Bokova said. “We must support young people affected by the crisis and equip them with knowledge and skills necessary to find jobs, rebuild their country, and play an active part of their society.”
The Director-General also stressed that education also represents a security imperative, to build peace and prevent violent violent extremism, which increased investment in education will help address.
“Our task is huge, our challenges immense,” the Director-General said, “but we need to protect the youth from falling prey to despair, violence and radicalization."
The Director-General commended the increased focus of the international community on educational needs of Syrian youth, and particularly the pledges made by leaders of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, to ensure that all refugee and vulnerable children in their countries will have access to education.
Increased investment in education will reinforce a number UNESCO programmes already in place. Over the past five years, UNESCO and its partners, including the European Union, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, have provided support through a variety of programmes to youth affected by the Syria crisis in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, as well as inside Syria.