International expert meeting to put spotlight on right to quality education for refugees

23 November 2018

UNESCO, the Centre for UNESCO of Catalonia, the Generalitat de Catalunya and the City Council of Barcelona are holding an International Expert Meeting on Public policies supporting the Right to education of Refugees, on the occasion of the Human Rights Day 2018, which marks the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), to draw attention to the importance of all refugees enjoying equal access to an education of good quality.

A main challenge of our times in the field of education derives from the growing human mobility across and within regions. Education plays a key role in providing refugees the necessary tools for the full development of their personality, insertion in the labour market and for improving their livelihoods. It is also a key to successful integration thereby facilitating a more meaningful contribution to the societies, and contributes as well to mutual acceptance and respect with the population in receiving countries. As recently highlighted by the 2019 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report ‘Migration, displacement and education: Building bridges, not walls’, education improvements can help migrants and refugees fully realize their potential.

Yet, despite the fact that issues related to education of refugees are not new, this represents a huge challenge today. With over 19.9 million who are currently refugees, mainly hosted in low and middle-income countries, challenges are numerous in relation to access, quality, and equity. According to UNHCR, refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school, and even those who attend schools are less likely as well to complete their education. In 2017, only 61% of refugee children attended primary school, 23% of refugee adolescents received secondary education. When it comes to higher education, only 1 per cent of eligible refugees have access to higher education today, compared to 36 per cent of global youth, according to UNHCR.

By endorsing the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in 2016, States reaffirmed their obligations to fully respect the human rights of refugees and migrants and recognized that education is a critical element of the international response to the refugee crisis. The Comprehensive Refuge Response Framework laid out by the Declaration calls for greater support for refugees and host States. A Global Compact on Refugees is also expected to be endorsed by the UN General Assembly in December 2018.

In 2015, the international community agreed on the Education 2030 Agenda-SDG4, which commits Members States to develop inclusive, responsive and resilient education systems to meet the needs of children, youth and adults including internally displaced persons and refugees. Promoting access for youth to education, skills development and employment is also envisioned in the New Urban Agenda (NUA), adopted by all UN Member States in 2016 as a guide for the local implementation of the Education 2030 Agenda-SDG4.

The International Expert Meeting, emphasizing a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach, aims at encouraging and facilitating peer-learning, and identifying relevant policy recommendations, at international, national, regional, local, and school levels.

The expert meeting will bring together representatives from Member states, regional governments and cities as well as academics and international experts in the field of refugee education, United Nations agencies, NGOs, and civil society representatives.

Particular attention will be given to how cities address the challenge of providing quality education for refugees, from a lifelong learning perspective.