Emergency education fund

U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education and former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced an emergency education fund, the Education Cannot Wait Fund, at this year’s World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. The fund, which hopes to raise $3.85 billion in the next five years, aims to ensure that the millions of children across the globe who are directly affected by emergencies are provided with an education.

What is Considered an Emergency?

Conflict or wars, natural disasters and health-related crises, such as the yellow fever outbreak, are all examples of emergencies.

How is Education Affected by Emergencies?

Children are often displaced or taken out of school due to emergencies and schools may be attacked or taken over by armed forces.

The number of children that do not attend school is alarming. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), along with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), found that only 50% of refugee children are in primary school and 25% of refugee adolescents are in secondary school.

According to The Christian Science Monitor, 2.6 million Syrian children stopped attending school due to Syria’s civil war, 1,200 schools were closed and made into shelters in Iraq and an estimated 400,000 children in South Sudan withdrew from school.

The number of schools attacked or taken over — an estimated four each day, according to UNICEF — is also devastating. Attacks have also occurred in Afghanistan, Yemen, Nigeria and Palestine.

Why is an emergency education fund necessary?

Education received two percent of emergency relief funding, the smallest share of humanitarian funding, according to an Education For All Global Monitoring Report. Only 38% of aid requests for education are met, which is about half of the average for all other sectors.

“Without school, young children caught up in emergencies are at risk of becoming the youngest laborers in the field, the youngest brides at the altar, the youngest recruits vulnerable to extremism and radicalization,” said Brown at the summit in Istanbul.

Education contributes to peacebuilding and the rebuilding of damaged communities. Future generations will be disadvantaged if education is not prioritized in humanitarian response. Uneducated and unprepared citizens may struggle to contribute to their society’s recovery.

Additionally, an emergency education fund provides hope. Brown stated, “We believe that this fund will offer young people hope, because when we ask ourselves what breaks the lives of once thriving young children, it’s not just the Mediterranean wave that submerged the life best, it’s not just the food convoy that does not arrive in Syria, it is also the absence of hope; the soul-crushing certainty that there is nothing ahead to plan or prepare for, not even a place in school.”

The Education Cannot Wait Fund, which was launched with an initial $100 million in donations, aims to reach a minimum of 13.6 million children over the next five years; it aspires to reach up to 75 million children by 2030.

The emergency education fund will support local NGOs, as they are able to provide education more cheaply and quickly than U.N. agencies or the World Bank.

Alice Gottesman

Photo: Flickr


The world’s first-ever World Humanitarian Summit took place May 23–24, 2016 in Istanbul. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the summit in 2012 after recognizing the need to reaffirm global responsibility of our shared humanity.

Since the original announcement, the need for the summit has become increasingly urgent. 125 million people around the world are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, according to Ban Ki-moon’s report for the World Humanitarian Summit last year.

The World Humanitarian Summit included over 9,000 people–a mix of world leaders, non-governmental organizations, people affected by crises and partners in the private sector and civil society.

Packed with roundtable discussions and events, the aim of The World Humanitarian Summit is to change the way the world responds to global issues by committing to a unified goal to end suffering.

The Agenda for Humanity outlines the five core responsibilities that the summit centered on:

  1. “Global leadership to prevent and end conflict.” The first core responsibility proposes responding quickly to crises and investing in risk analysis, political unity, and peace building to prevent conflicts from occurring. Manmade conflict accounts for 80 percent of humanitarian aid that is sent, according to the WHS Executive Summary Report. Investing in conflict prevention would save billions of dollars and lives.
  2. “Uphold the norms that safeguard humanity.” The second core responsibility addresses the need to recommit to rules of war and speak out against violations. When bombs or explosives are used in populated areas, 90 percent of people that are killed or injured are civilians, according to the WHS Executive Summary Report. This responsibility presents the launch of a global campaign to stop violations of the human rights law while investing in ways to increase adherence and accountability.
  3. “Leave no one behind.” The third core responsibility is dedicated to reaching everyone affected by crises, risk and vulnerability. According to the WHS Report, 60 million people are forcibly displaced, and there is a severe lack of funding in humanitarian aid. This responsibility commits to empowering marginalized groups, addressing displacement and supporting migrants.
  4. “Changing people’s lives – from delivering aid to ending need.” The fourth core responsibility is centered on shifting the priority from delivering aid to ending the need for aid. Reinforcing the idea that support should be drawn from within, this commitment advises employing local solutions and empowering local systems that already work instead of replacing them with international aid.
  5. “Invest in humanity.” The fifth core responsibility commits to political, institutional and financial investments in stability and local systems. It proposes to decrease the funding gap and improve the efficiency of aid. The World Humanitarian Summit comes at a critical time in history – a time when the U.N. estimates that the number of people displaced has not been as high since World War II.

In his WHS Report, Ki-Moon deliberately references The Declaration of St. James’s Palace in London in 1941, the first act toward the formation of the United Nations. At St. James’s Palace in London, governments came together to pledge a unified commitment to work toward peace. Ban acknowledges that 75 years later, it is time to renew that commitment to humanity.

Erica Rawles

Photo: Flickr

World_Humanitarian_SummitIstanbul is set to host the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in May of this year. According to the Summit’s website, U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon and his family, were forced to flee their home during the Korean war when he was just six years old.

His experiences inspired him to convene the World Humanitarian Summit “as a call for global action to alleviate the suffering of the 125 million people around the world affected by conflicts and disasters”.

At the heart of this initiative is building a more inclusive global humanitarian system with a strong commitment to human rights principles and development. Consultations will provide opportunities for all actors to discuss challenges and emerging trends, identify recommendations and develop a plan of action for the future of humanitarian efforts.

To create a path forward leading up to the summit, the secretary called for an “Agenda for Humanity” based on five core responsibilities:

1. Global leadership to prevent and end conflict

According to the U.N., conflicts drive 80 percent of all humanitarian needs. Finding solutions to current conflicts and preventing future problems is critical to ensuring greater quality of life for all the world’s citizens.

2. Uphold the norms that safeguard humanity

According to the Secretary General’s report, “we are witnessing the erosion of 150 years of international humanitarian law”. A second focus of the World Humanitarian Summit will be to determine ways that leaders will recommit and be held accountable to upholding humanitarian rules.

3. Leave no one behind

The Summit seeks to reach all global citizens and empower people of all ages, nationalities and genders to be agents of positive change. This goal is in line with the U.N.’s newly implemented Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to reduce inequalities by improving gender parity, ensuring quality education and continuing to eradicate poverty and hunger.

4. Change people’s lives – from delivering aid to ending need

The Secretary General’s report states, “Success must now be measured by how people’s vulnerability and risk are reduced, not by how needs are met year after year.” This will require a focus on reinforcing effective political and social policies in struggling nations. Additionally, new ideas and innovative methods will be welcomed.

5. Invest in Humanity

Acting upon this responsibility to humanity requires political, institutional and financial investment. This fifth category will focus on shifting funds to finance and invest in local communities. This funding must be effective, informed and increase the incentive for cooperative outcomes. Focus will also be placed on reducing the funding gap for humanitarian needs.

This September, the U.N. reports, Ban Ki-moon will submit his report on the outcomes of the Summit to the General Assembly. Member States will then decide to adopt some or all of the recommendations through intergovernmental negotiations.

For the millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance, there is no better time than now.

Taylor Resteghini

Photo: Wikimedia

Humanitarian Aid

In March 2016, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced proposals for improving the effectiveness of humanitarian aid. These suggestions will be brought forth at the first World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in May 2016 in Istanbul. Proposals to be discussed include ending refugee limbo, increasing refugee access to education, and localizing disaster response.

According to IRIN, the U.N. has worked in consultation with over 20,000 people for improvements in crisis response. The summit will cover the trends and findings pertaining to the utilization of humanitarian aid more efficiently through future crises that arose from this work.

With the influx of refugees to Europe at its highest since WWII, improving the assistance system will be a top priority at the WHS. Concerning the refugee crisis, the summit hopes to merge ideas on how to address the problem more equitably for all states. For instance, the Secretary General recommends that more countries share the financial and hosting responsibilities.

Other ideas that the summit will deliberate upon include providing sustainable livelihoods for refugees in their host countries. This involves providing more immediate access to education rather than refugees remaining in a period of limbo. Another innovative idea to be discussed is a “global finance package,” which would deliver increased funds to hosting countries.

Ban Ki-Moon will also advocate for Security Council members to abstain from vetoing resolutions potentially aiding and preventing crises and atrocities, states IRIN.

In order to successfully provide aid, Ban Ki-Moon says that following international law is an essential factor. Too often hospitals and schools are bombed and destroyed, further disabling quick and effective humanitarian aid provisions. The summit will debate how to competently ensure that international law is respected by all states.

The conference’s discourse on improving humanitarian assistance will also mention the need to localize financing and to empower local organizations.

One round table at the summit will be called “Catalysing Action To Achieve Gender Equality,” covering issues pertaining to gender equality in the face of crises. Myriad women’s needs are left behind in displacement settings. This roundtable will discuss solutions to women’s inclusion in decision-making during crises.

The program’s website states, “The summit is an opportunity to confront these global challenges head-on and generate greater global leadership and political will to end conflict, alleviate suffering, and reduce risk.”

Mayra Vega

Photo: Flickr

Solidarity Levy
The United Nations is urging countries to adopt a solidarity levy in order to help victims of war and natural disasters.

The recommendation comes with the news that $40 billion per year is now needed to help vulnerable populations. Climate change and prolonged regional armed conflicts have resulted in a $15 billion shortage in relief funding, the organization says.

“The stakes are sky high,” said U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. “More than 125 million people need humanitarian assistance worldwide. The financial burden is five times greater than a decade ago. Humanitarian action is now the U.N.’s costliest activity.”

In response, a U.N. panel on humanitarian financing has released recommendations on solutions to tackle the widening funding gap. In its report “Too Important to Fail,” the panel highlights, among others, two strategies: adopting a solidarity levy to broaden the humanitarian resource base and reducing the need for humanitarian intervention altogether.

A “solidarity levy,” the panel suggests, is a promising solution to the revenue shortage because it corrects an over-reliance on humanitarian donations. The levy is a tax voluntarily adopted by countries and applied to airline tickets, sporting tickets and other transactions.

The idea has been successful in the past. One such levy on airline tickets raised over $1.7 billion for UNITAID’s fight against HIV and malaria between 2006 and 2011.

The panel wants more countries to adopt this model to generate more predictable and reliable streams of income for humanitarian work. “The simple act of catching a plane turns passengers into contributors to the cause of saving lives—it is responsible travel on an enormous scale,” the report said.

However, one of the most meaningful ways to reduce the cost of humanitarian aid is to build resilience to conflict and disaster, the panel noted. Over 93 percent of people who live in extreme poverty also live in fragile countries.

The U.N. panel recommends using scarce development dollars in the most vulnerable countries first in order to build adequate infrastructure and emergency services. It also supports the existing recommendation to allocate more funds to the U.N. Peacebuilding Fund, which is used to foster political dialogue and strengthen national institutions. Taking these steps, the U.N. suggests, will mitigate the costliest emergency interventions.

In the meantime, more funding is needed to address current issues. With the World Humanitarian Summit set to take place in Istanbul in May of this year, the panel is hopeful that its report will encourage conversations about adopting a solidarity levy and the future of humanitarian financing.

Ron Minard

Sources: IB Times, UN 1, UN 2, World Humanitarian Summit

From Oct. 14 to 16, Switzerland’s second-largest city became especially bustling as 900 people poured in with ideas about future humanitarian aid. They were invited by Switzerland to attend the Global Consultation in Geneva.

The Global Consultation in Geneva consisted of a live webcast and Q&A session. The purpose of the consultation was to introduce the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit that will be held in Istanbul in May 2016.

The event attracted a diverse crowd of members from struggling communities, government representatives and everyone in between. The webcast itself is available online for anyone wishing to be involved in future humanitarian aid.

A preceding online consultation posted several questions and proposals regarding preparation, empowerment, safety and more. For example, the World Humanitarian Summit said that affected communities should be given leadership positions when dealing with the crises in their areas.

Recognizing disaster victims as primary agents in the recovery process will increase their involvement in preparation and response tactics.

People from around the globe responded with suggestions and opinions. These responses were used as feedback for the goals announced in the Global Consultation in Geneva. This way, speakers would know ahead of time which concerns to target in their discourses.

One particular concern was strengthening the resilience of countries. Regions prone to natural disasters must be prepared, war-torn areas need fortification and the deeply impoverished want to be told that there is hope.

“Concentrating our efforts on humanitarian action and reconstruction is not a valuable strategy in the light of humankind’s growing exposure to the consequences of poor land use planning and climate change; preventive measures are much more effective than responding to disasters,” said Didier Burkhalter, former president of the Swiss Confederation, during the webcast.

World Food Programme (WFP) released a statement on the first day of the global consultation, revealing its proposals for 2016 humanitarian aid. Like many other humanitarian programs, WFP advocated for further mobilizing affected areas.

“While international actors can support countries in managing disasters, it is national and local actors who first and foremost require stronger capacity for preparedness and response,” said WFP.

As the refugee population increases, WFP requests that taking care of displaced persons be considered a “global good” and countries hosting refugees receive more support.

It hopes that the discussions prompted by these proposals will “bring forth more concrete ideas that will feed into agenda for Summit in Istanbul next year.”

Roughly 80 million people worldwide depend on humanitarian aid. Sixty million have been displaced from their homes.

These figures may seem insurmountable, but they can be overcome if the ideas and goals proposed during the Global Consultation in Geneva take root across the globe. Already, many people want to help, and many more want to be helped.

“No refugee wants to remain a refugee,” said Burkhalter in his speech. “Every child in this world prevented from going to school wants to return to their classrooms as quickly as possible.”

Sarah Prellwitz

Sources: Relief Web, EDA, WFP, World Humanitarian Summit
Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid
A report released by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) last week has shocked the humanitarian aid community. The report, entitled “Where is everyone?,” took a hard look at areas where aid has been falling short, especially in regard to emergency responses.

The three main issues the report finds are: funding is too slow and inflexible, NGOs operating at the grassroots are shut out of the UN-dominated system and emergency response is not prioritized in the humanitarian aid system.

Responses to MSF’s report have not all been favorable. Some, such as Bertrand Taith, a cultural historian of humanitarian aid and director of the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester, have criticized MSF’s methodology. Taith called the approach taken by MSF “headline grabbing.”

However, despite the controversy over MSF’s methods, the overwhelming response has been appreciation for the debate it has sparked. The MSF report’s website states: “We intend this paper to start a real discussion with our colleagues in the aid community…to make us all improve how we respond.”

One contribution to the debate has taken the form of a blog entitled, “Where is everyone? We’re standing right next to you.” Bob Kitchen, director of the International Rescue Committee’s emergency preparedness and response unit expressed in the blog that his agency and others “continue to stand and deliver in the face of chaos and mounting humanitarian needs.”

Kitchen’s comment is in response to the report’s finding that humanitarian aid agencies are not targeting the most vulnerable areas, because they are too dangerous and hard to access. One such population being unregistered urban refugees in Jordan.

“We’re not saying [agencies] should take unnecessary risks, but we do feel that in some cases, a perceived lack of security becomes a rather defensive argument,” says Jens Pedersen, a humanitarian adviser with MSF.

Kitchen, however, cites the work his agency is currently doing in Somalia. “A country,” he describes, “so violent that MSF itself has withdrawn.”

Funding is another issue that the report addresses. Not lack of funding in general, but lack of flexible and easily accessible funds. The report begins by saying, “the international humanitarian aid system has more means and resources at its disposal…than ever before.”

The issue is that the money is often inflexible and earmarked. It is also slow; on average, it takes three months for donor funds to be disbursed through UN agencies and reach their target. Three months that emergency response situations cannot afford.

To combat this delay, certain networks have been established. One is the START network, which operates outside the UN. It provides a shared source of emergency funding for 19 major NGOs.

The report effectively sparked debate in the aid community. MSF “has made it clear that [the report] is intended as a trigger for critical discussions in the aid community,” reports IRIN. And, in that regard, it has succeeded.

Humanitarian aid agencies across the globe are preparing for the World Humanitarian Summit, which will take place in Istanbul in 2016. The stated goal of the summit is to “find new ways to tackle humanitarian needs in our fast-changing world,” and the summit will provide space for the conversation about aid effectiveness to continue.

– Julianne O’Connor

Sources: IRIN, MSF, World Humanitarian Summit
Photo: NewInt