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Support for education in emergencies a Nobel cause

18 December 2012

On 10 December, the EU was awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, “in recognition of six decades of peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”. Plan welcomes the decision by EU leaders to use the prize money to support education for children caught up in conflict worldwide.

“The long term impacts of being caught up in conflict can be devastating for children. Education helps children cope with the effects of conflict. It restores a sense of normality and stability to their lives and the importance of this should not be underestimated,” said Karen Schroh, Head of Plan EU Office. “The decision by the EU to dedicate its Nobel Peace Prize to
projects which help ensure children have a childhood is therefore very welcome.

The President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso has announced this morning that the selected projects to which the Peace Prize money will be attributed are UNICEF’s project with children affected by the conflict in northern Pakistan, the joint project by Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council with displaced children in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and refugees in Ethiopia, UNHCR project with Columbian refugees in Ecuador and ACTED project at the Domiz Refugee camp in Northern Iraq with Syrian children.

The projects to be supported through the Children for Peace Initiative fall in the scope of responsibility of the EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva. Today she said: "In conflict, humanitarian aid is often the only way for children to be able to continue their education, which not only improves their future prospects, but can also protect them for abuse and exploitation. This important cause is worthy of the EU's Nobel Peace Prize contribution. On the Syrian and Colombian borders, in Pakistan, Ethiopia and Congo, we will make a big difference for kids that might otherwise become a lost generation – giving them instead a chance for a childhood, a chance for recovery, a chance for a better future".

Why support education in emergencies?

90% of the victims of conflict worldwide are civilians. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of conflict: for example they may be recruited by armed groups, face increased risk of sexual violence and exploitation, become separated from their parents or be forced into child labour.

In conflict situations, children are at high risk of dropping out of school, and often failed to reintegrate into the educational system. Of the 75 million children out of school, more than half live in conflict affected areas.

Education is critical to the protection and development of children affected by conflict. It provides psychosocial support, and allows them to develop necessary life skills and values. The ability to go to school and learn also restores a sense of normality to children’s lives.

Long-term funding commitment needed

However, education in emergencies is severely under-funded by humanitarian donors, including the European Commission, with interventions typically focusing on more immediate life-saving projects such as healthcare, nutrition and food assistance.

“This should not be a one-off gesture,” added Schroh. “Education in emergencies is severely under-funded and as the EU continues to negotiate its spending limits to 2020, the temptation to slash humanitarian and development aid for the sake of reaching a compromise among member states should be resisted.”

Editor's notes

For more information contact Louise Hagendijk, Communications and Media Officer
Email: louise.hagendijk@plan-international.org
Tel: 0032 (0)2 504 6056

The European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid makes a clear commitment to helping the most vulnerable, including children. It states that “in responding to humanitarian needs particular vulnerabilities must be taken into account. In this context, the EU will pay special attention to women, children, the elderly, sick and disable people, and to addressing their specific needs”. 

The European Commission Staff Working Document on Children in Emergencies and Crisis Situations identified education in emergencies as one of the three priority issues.