The Director-General of UNESCO has expressed her acute concern over the potential impact on education resulting from the large funding shortfall currently faced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), in a letter addressed today to the Agency’s Commissioner-General.
UNESCO has a long history of cooperation with UNRWA in the field of education, having provided significant strategic and technical support to the design and delivery of its school and vocational training programmes since the Agency’s creation in 1950s.
“For the 500,000 children and adolescents enrolled in UNRWA’s schools, and 7,000 young people being trained in the Agency’s vocational centres, education is a lifeline and a critical means of building a better future”, stated Irina Bokova in her letter to Mr Pierre Krahenbühl. “In the wake of international commitments to guarantee access to meaningful learning opportunities for all, it is incumbent on the international community as a whole to ensure that every action is taken to ensure that UNRWA students are able to return to their classrooms on time.
Together, our two organizations have succeeded in raising the level of education among young Palestinian refugees, and particularly girls. If UNRWA schools are forced to remain closed beyond the official start of the school year, this achievement will be jeopardized. Moreover, the psychological and economic effects of any postponement of the start of the school year would certainly spill over into the wider community, potentially escalating insecurity and instability.”
The Director-General’s position is aligned with the UN Secretary-General’s deep expression of concern over the financial situation confronting the Agency and “his call on all donors to ensure that the USD 100 million required be contributed to UNRWA at the earliest possible date so that the children of Palestine can begin their school year without delay.”
At the United Nations Summit in September, the international community will adopt a new set of sustainable development goals for 2030, of which education is expected to be singled out as a ‘stand-alone’ target. This follows the World Education Forum held in Incheon, Republic of Korea, on 19-22 May 2015, at which education policy-makers and stakeholders from around the globe committed to promote access to a full cycle of quality primary and secondary schooling. The need to ensure quality education for all in situations of crisis and emergency, including refugees, and its role in recovery and rebuilding, was underlined.