What UNESCO does in education in emergencies

UNESCO helps to strengthen the capacities of its Member States to provide access to quality educational opportunities for all in times of crisis. Data show that access to learning opportunities during crises is both life-saving and life-sustaining, and yet education is consistently the most under-funded sector in humanitarian response.

UNESCO’s established presence worldwide enables engagement with Ministries of Education to establish preparedness measures. In times of crisis the organization’s field offices are able to move quickly and in close partnership with governments to address threats to the education system and lead in the response and recovery efforts.

UNESCO is a founding member of the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) and is committed to the Education Cannot Wait fund for education in emergencies.

Crisis-sensitive policy and planning

The rising rate of conflict and natural disasters and forcibly displaced people worldwide places huge pressure on education systems. By investing strategically in capacity-building activities within Ministries of Education in advance of and at the onset of crisis, UNESCO seeks to bridge the gap between the humanitarian and development response, building lasting resilience in the education sector. UNESCO provides technical expertise, research and training to support the development of crisis-sensitive curricula, policy, and plans at the national level. In regional crises and refugee contexts, UNESCO is positioned to support cross-border dialogues to develop informed policies for refugee education and anticipate needs and impacts on national education systems. These measures undertaken in collaboration with national governments and humanitarian partners ensure that children and youth continue to access quality education that provides physical and psychological safety during emergencies.

Protecting schools from attack

In armed conflicts, UNESCO works to protect schools and universities from attack. Quality education in safe and neutral environments is immediately protective. It provides lifesaving knowledge and skills and psychosocial support to those affected by crisis and prepares them for a sustainable future. UNESCO encourages Member States to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration, and actively engage in addressing the impact of violence and conflict on learning institutions. The declaration acts as an instrument for States to support and implement the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.

UNESCO contributes to policy dialogue regarding effective strategies for prevention and response, as well as developing programs to implement policy into practice, and strengthening mechanisms for monitoring and reporting attacks. UNESCO is a founding member of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack.

Empowering youth in crises 

In crisis contexts, there is a huge need to support learning opportunities bridging the gap between basic and secondary education and employment. Without investment in opportunities for youth to gain the knowledge and skills needed to contribute meaningfully to the economy in crisis-affected countries, youth remain vulnerable to unemployment, poverty, violence, and extremism, imperilling the best recovery efforts. Research shows that while many children benefit from the support of basic education in protracted crisis contexts, few find opportunity to learn skills for the workforce, and there are very few financial resources are available for post-basic education. UNESCO works with governments to implement opportunities for secondary education, as well access to higher education and technical or vocational training opportunities.

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