Joint pledge to increase financing and coordination and improve education for refugees
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A student at Al-Bahouaira Primary School in Lake Chad. Credit: GPE/Carine Durand

Jointly authored by Yasmine Sherif, Director, Education Cannot Wait, Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education and Keiko Miwa, Regional Director for Human Development of the World Bank

The first Global Refugee Forum, which kicks off in Geneva today, comes at the end of a tumultuous decade in which the number of refugees has risen to more than 26 million people worldwide.

Having fled their homes in search of protection, the vast majority of refugees – some 85 percent – live in the world’s poorest countries. As a result, many struggle to access essential services in their new homes.

Access to education is a case in point. More than half the world’s refugees are children, and some 3.7 million of them have not only lost their homes but their opportunity to go to school.

As a result of discrimination, exclusion and a lack of funding, refugee children are five times less likely to attend school than other children in the countries to which their families have fled. Only 61 percent attend primary school, 22 percent have access to secondary school and just 1 percent benefit from higher education. Refugee girls are out of school at higher rates than boys.

Education is a top priority for refugees

These circumstances stand in stark contrast to the priority that refugees themselves place on education. ‘Education against the odds’, the largest analysis of what children say they need during humanitarian emergencies, revealed that children affected by crises are more than twice as likely to rank going to school as their top concern over other needs.

They and members of their communities know that education transforms lives, paving the way to better work, health and livelihoods. Moreover, in times of crisis, education can play a life-saving and life-sustaining role. It is a building block of recovery, resilience and long-term development.

Responsibility must be shared

Countries that receive and host refugees and include them in their national education systems, often for extended periods, make an immense contribution from their own limited resources to both the collective good and to the rights and dignity of refugees. However, despite the tremendous generosity of host countries, the gap between the needs and the resources available to meet these needs, including for education, continues to grow.

Guided by the Global Compact on Refugees, the first Global Refugee Forum provides an opportunity to address this challenge and translate the central principle of international responsibility-sharing into concrete action.

As three multilateral organizations committed to ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all, we recognize the urgent need for more and better financial resources to ensure that countries hosting refugees can deliver the promise of quality learning opportunities made in the Global Compact.

Promising developments

We are, separately and jointly, already responding to the immense challenge  the global refugee crisis presents to host country education systems.

As the largest financier of education programs in the world, the World Bank continues to finance refugee and host country support operations through both IBRD and IDA financing supporting the integration of refugee education into the education of the host community while strengthening the overall education system of the host country, ensuring displaced children and youth can access inclusive and safe schools, and learn the necessary skills and competencies to thrive in their communities and beyond.

Education Cannot Wait was established to turn around the historically low levels of humanitarian funding for education and is pioneering new approaches to close the funding gaps for education in emergency contexts including Multi Year Resilience Plans.

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) works in nearly 70 developing countries to ensure that all children have access to a quality education.  In refugee-hosting countries, GPE mobilizes financing and provides technical support to build resilient, effective education systems so that all children have the opportunity to learn. Currently, GPE is providing $1.1 billion in grants to support quality education in more than 20 countries where refugees have access to national schools.  Through its accelerated funding mechanism, the partnership also provides rapid funding for education in crises. In mid-December 2019, the GPE Board made a major commitment to scale up this mechanism, unlocking up to $250 million over the next two years in funding for countries facing crises .

Delivering more and better by working together

We recognize that there are also opportunities for our organizations, working together, to provide more effective, efficient and aligned support. At the Global Refugee Forum today we will pledge to improve the coordination and financing of our efforts.

We will support governments and country-level partners to coordinate and align the planning, financing, and delivery of education assistance to refugees and their host communities.

We are committed to publishing a strategy outlining how this commitment will be operationalized next year and to reviewing our efforts annually and publishing an overview of progress detailing where, when and how we have worked together. We pledge to report on these efforts at the second Global Refugee Forum in 2023.

But international organizations working better together will not on their own deliver on the promise of the Global Compact on Refugees to ensure that host-country national education systems provide access to education for all refugees.

More funding still required

The international community needs to mobilize additional funding to respond to the refugee crisis, especially for education. Between now and 2021 an additional $1 billion in funding must be secured  to meet Education Cannot Wait’s agreed goals to support 8.9 million children caught up in crises.

The World Bank continues to support refugee education. The active World Bank education portfolio in fragile settings and refugee hosting countries is USD 5.65 billion, out of which USD 4.54 billion is IDA (International Development Association – one of the largest sources of concessional  funding to eliminate extreme poverty in the world’s poorest countries.) An additional USD 2.6 billion in operations are under preparation and expected over the next year.

As the world’s largest fund for education in developing countries, the Global Partnership for Education’s forthcoming replenishment will be a further test of the donor community’s commitment to supporting education in the world’s most needy countries. Since its last replenishment in 2018, GPE has raised $US $2.6 billion in international finance and leveraged $30 billion in domestic financing to support education for the world’s most marginalized children. However there is still an enormous financing need. GPE’s next replenishment, in mid-2021, will be crucial to ensure continued support for inclusive, quality education, including for refugees and host communities.

Despite commitments by some donors, such as the European Union which now spends 10 percent of its humanitarian funding on education, the global figure still stands at just 2 percent. The poor cousin of an underfunded and overstretched humanitarian system, education urgently needs more support.

Progress is possible

We all share a collective obligation to the 3.7 million refugee children who are not in school. They are not responsible for the conflict that has driven them out of their respective countries. And they have a legal right to an education – a right that doesn’t end in times of emergency.

We are confident that it is possible to provide a quality education to every refugee child and we are committed to supporting countries hosting refugees in securing the necessary financing to do so.

On the occasion of the Global Refugee Forum we urge countries to support the world’s refugees and the countries which host them in committing to do everything we can to deliver the commitments to education in the Global Compact on Refugees.

This announcement was first posted on the World Education Blog of the UNESCO GEMR

A student at Al-Bahouaira Primary School in Lake Chad. Credit: GPE/Carine Durand

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