The Hidden Crisis: Armed Conflict and Education - Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2011
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To what extent are the goals of Education for All being achieved in countries affected by armed conflict? This report shows that there is not only a lack of provision of education but also a failure to protect education systems and their students, and to devote sufficient funds to education in reconstruction and peacebuilding programmes. It argues that educational challenges in conflict-affected states are largely unreported, and that education in such contexts merits a far more central place on the international development agenda.
Countries affected by armed conflict are among the farthest from reaching the Education for All goals. However, education has the potential to help break the vicious circle of armed conflict and poverty. By extending opportunities for learning, governments and donors can forge a new social contract and generate the skills that people and countries need to build shared prosperity. The hidden crisis in education in conflict-affected states is a global challenge that demands an international response.
Four systemic failures – of provision, protection, reconstruction and peacebuilding – affect education in contexts of conflict. Failures in the provision and protection of education contribute to the risk of conflict and hinder peacebuilding. For example:
- Relevant education of good quality is critical to overcoming the economic despair that often contributes to violent conflict. However, education systems often do not provide youth with the skills they need to escape poverty and unemployment.
- Further, while local communities demonstrate great resolve in attempting to maintain education during conflict, donors do not always share that commitment.
- The international community is failing to uphold human rights where state and non-state parties involved in armed conflict are targeting school children, teachers and schools – particularly where sexual violence is concerned.
- Many countries lack the resources to reconstruct education systems and have to rely on limited and unpredictable humanitarian aid flows.
- Education has the potential to act as a force for peace, yet schools can also be used to reinforce the social divisions, intolerance and prejudices that lead to war.
- Development assistance to conflict-affected states is skewed towards countries seen as strategic priorities. The use of aid for education to support counterinsurgency operations threatens the security of local communities.
Reversing the failures in education in countries affected by conflict requires concerted global action in many domains. Governments, donors, the UN system and the international community should take the following steps:
- Strengthening protection: Governments (through the United Nations) should strengthen systems that monitor human rights violations affecting education, support national plans aimed at stopping those violations and impose sanctions on offenders. An International Commission on Rape and Sexual Violence should be created involving the International Criminal Court. UNESCO should lead in monitoring attacks on education systems.
- Increasing provision: The vital role of education during conflict-related emergencies should be recognised. Financing for humanitarian pooled funds should increase from 730 million dollars to two billion dollars to cover shortfalls in education financing. Systems for assessing the education needs of conflict-affected communities should be strengthened, and refugees and internally displaced people should be given better access to education.
- Improving reconstruction: Donors need to break down the artificial divide between humanitarian and long-term aid, and more assistance should be channelled through national pooled funds. Working through the reformed Education for All Fast Track Initiative (FTI), donors should establish more effective multilateral arrangements for pooled funding, comparable with those operating in the health sector. Funding for the FTI should be increased to six billion dollars annually, with more flexible rules introduced to facilitate support for conflict-affected states.
- Enhancing peacebuilding: To unlock education's potential to nurture peace, governments and donors need to develop inclusive education systems, with policy informed by the potential impact on long-standing grievances. Schools should be seen as places for imparting tolerance, mutual respect and the ability to live peacefully with others. Between 500 million dollars and one billion dollars should be channelled to education through the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, with UNESCO and UNICEF playing a more central role in integrating education into wider peacebuilding strategies.
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UNESCO, 2011, 'The Hidden Crisis: Armed Conflict and Education - Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2011', UNESCO
Organisation: Education For All Global Monitoring Report, http://www.efareport.unesco.org