Education in Situations of Emergency, Crisis and Reconstruction: UNESCO Strategy

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation


Is the right to education effectively implemented in post-conflict situations? What are the actions that need to be taken in those contexts to ensure that education is of a good standard and available to all? This working paper from UNESCO presents a set of guidelines for emergency educational assistance. As children are often the main victims of conflicts and schools are destroyed, the reconstruction of the education system must be a primary concern for donors and relief agencies. Education can be a bridge between emergency assistance and long-term development in post-conflict situations.

The importance of education in emergency situations caused by violent conflicts or natural disasters was explicitly recognised at the World Education Forum (Dakar 2000) where it was agreed that it should be an important component of the education for all process. The reasons for this renewed attention are:

  • It is estimated that about one percent of the world population live in emergency conditions.
  • The right to education is enshrined in many international treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • In addition to being a basic right, education is a means to achieving other basic rights, and it is now seen as the fourth pillar of humanitarian assistance, alongside nourishment, health services and shelter.
  • Access to education is crucial to the psychological development of war-affected children as it provides a sense of normality and hope for the future and serves as the basis for future economic and social development.

UNESCO must play a leading role in the promotion of education in emergency situations, but it needs to receive the support and participation of civil societies, NGOs, professional bodies and international donors. The key actions for UNESCO in the implementation of this strategy are:

  • Guidance on including emergency and crisis response in EFA plans, through the creation of a booklet and the provision of training to UNESCO field staff, national educators and civil society actors.
  • Establishment of norms and standards in collaboration with the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) and promotion of universal values through the INEE’s Peace Education Programme and the revision of school curricula.
  • Advocacy on behalf of emergency-affected populations in international forums and at the national level.
  • Adoption of a decentralised and participative approach, through provision of training to UNESCO field staff, education ministry and district level officials and community committees.
  • Promotion of information sharing and communication between UNESCO, the United Nations Special Rapporteurs for children affected by armed conflict, the International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP) and donors.
  • Collection of state of the art studies and implementation of five-year evaluations on education response in major emergencies.


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 2003, 'Education in Situations of Emergency, Crisis and Reconstruction: UNESCO Strategy', UNESCO Working Paper