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The EU’s commitment to securing access to education in times of emergencies and protracted crises for all children, especially girls and children with disabilities

Education is the foundation for everything else. This is my core belief. Education is also a fundamental right and an important tool for protection in humanitarian crises. Regrettably and despite its importance, access to quality education is being denied to tens of millions of children by increasingly protracted conflicts, forced displacement, violence, climate change, and disasters. As a result, we have sadly witnessed lost generations affecting the stability and development of entire regions. We have no other option but to address this major issue head on. We owe it to all vulnerable children around the globe.

On the global level, and whilst education in humanitarian contexts, still remains underfunded and under prioritised, the European Commission has consistently stepped up funding to education in crises in the last few years. When I took up office at the end of 2014, education amounted to 1% of the humanitarian budget. Today 8% of our humanitarian funding (EUR 86 million for 2018) is dedicated to education in emergencies, considerably above the global average of less than 3%. By the end of this year, EU funded projects will have supported over 5.5 million girls and boys around the world. And this is only our humanitarian support. Development cooperation and instruments like the different EU Trust Funds (for example the Madad trust Fund for the Syria crisis) are devoting significant funding to education. Of course, this requires increased coordination to make sure our funding is most effective and complementary.

As of 2019 I have committed to increase our commitment to 10% of the humanitarian budget. This is to allow EU responses in situations where no other EU instruments can act or would be slower to act. In emergencies access to education can be life-saving, being a strong shield protecting girls from early marriages, teenage pregnancy, and recruitment into armed groups and trafficking and exploitation. It is an investment into our future. Prioritizing education is a path I will continue to follow.

With the first ever policy document on education in emergencies, adopted by the European Commission in May 2018[1], we have created a framework dedicated to education in emergencies and crises, showing the EU's commitment to leaving no-one behind.

The needs of children are high and resources are scarce. Recognising this we will strongly support coordinative and innovative platforms and mechanisms at all levels to develop more effective and complementary responses – both in the short- and long-term – to ensure the continuity of education.

Our funding will focus on projects that target those most in need, such as children and young people who are out-of-school or at risk of disruption of their education , who are forcibly displaced, as well as their host communities. By way of example, 75 million children aged 3-18 years living in 35 crisis-affected countries are in the most desperate need of educational support. Within these same countries, there are 17 million school-age refugees, internally displaced, and other populations of concern. Furthermore we will prioritise marginalised, excluded and disadvantaged groups, including those children and young people who are separated and unaccompanied, in hard to reach areas, living with disabilities or additional needs, associated with armed forces and groups and belonging to ethno-linguistic minorities and poorer socio-economic groups.

Our policy also emphasises that we must aim to bring children back to learning within three months of displacement. Indeed, forcibly displaced children are among one of the specifically mentioned target groups we will seek to reach through our work.

Finally allow me to stress that our work is very closely linked with child protection and gender-related considerations. We have a three-track approach to support children's protection needs in humanitarian crises: mainstreaming, targeted actions and capacity building. Regarding targeted actions, last year we dedicated more than EUR 17 million to child protection activities in third countries.

Moreover, in view of the commitment I took at the end of last year, when submitting projects, all EU humanitarian partners will be asked to provide information on how they integrate the specific needs of persons with disabilities in their projects. In the same way gender is mainstreamed in all aspects of EU-funded relief operations: all applying partners have to specify how their individual humanitarian actions integrate gender and age.

Proactive and rapid responses are needed at all levels to minimise education disruption and to foster inclusive, safe and protective education opportunities. With 10% of our humanitarian funding going to education in emergencies we hope to show a positive example to other donors who can follow us in this endeavour.

Providing education in emergencies is a moral duty. Our moral duty to the millions of children around the world who have no access to quality learning. And it is also a strategic investment in global peace and prosperity.

 

[1] COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL on Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises, Brussels, 18.5.2018, COM(2018) 304