Historic change has happened at the global policy level that will have a profound impact on how we work.
In little over a year, world leaders have come together and agreed to the High Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants, World Humanitarian Summit Commitments to Action, Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Security Council Resolution on Youth, Peace and Security, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Each of these momentous new policy frameworks calls on governments and international partners to do more to tackle the most urgent and intransigent challenges to humanity and human development. Education took a prominent role in each. USAID ECCN should pay close attention to what is expected of our global community. We can use this occasion to ask: how can we, as USAID and partner organizations, collectively keep improving our practice?
Some notable aspects of these new frameworks for us are listed below:
- High Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants: In the New York Declaration, governments recognized the crucial role safe and equitable access to education plays in addressing the root causes of forced displacement and migration and in upholding the rights of refugees and migrants, and education should feature prominently in the global compacts for refugees and migrants to be agreed in 2018.
- World Humanitarian Summit: The first summit of its kind challenges us to eliminate gaps in education for children, adolescents and young people, provide access to quality education for refugees and displaced persons, address root causes of conflict, better address forced displacement, build community resilience and reduce risk, and transcend the humanitarian-development divide. Here the Education Cannot Wait initiative was launched with USAID support.
- Paris Agreement: Governments agreed to increase their ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change—reducing vulnerability, pursuing comprehensive risk assessments, fostering community resilience, sharing knowledge—and increase climate change education, including by integrating sustainable development into education systems.
- UNSCR on Youth, Peace and Security: This landmark resolution highlights the critical role played by youth in peace and security and calls for vocational training, greater access to education—also to address marginalization, quality education for peace so youth can engage as citizens more constructively.
- SDGs: The SDGs are transformational—focusing on ending inequality, tackling root causes, including eliminating poverty, reaching the most marginalized, and tackling stark disparities—and they are integrated, with targets linked across goals that require greater action cross-sectors and across the humanitarian-development divide. Goal 4 on quality education seeks free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education for all girls and boys, eliminating gender disparities in education and ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the most vulnerable.
- Sendai Framework: The successor to the Hyogo Framework continues to prioritize the prevention and mitigation of disasters through educational measures, including improving school safety, education resilience, increasing our understanding of disaster risk through education, integrating disaster risk education into school curricula and non-formal education, and building a culture of safety and resilience.
Each of these frameworks addresses the dynamic, interdependent complexity of conflict and crisis settings. Consider any school community in such environments. A typical community there could suffer violence or armed conflict, witness floods or earthquakes or other natural disasters, or grapple with an out of school youth population that may engage in risky, if not violent, behavior. Most poignantly, crisis- or conflict-affected communities typically would have to manage all those risks all at once.
Together, the policy frameworks can and should push the USAID ECCN community to develop evidence, share knowledge and improve our practice so we can reach the most marginalized and better address the drivers of inequality, deprivation and vulnerability in these most difficult environments. But how do we best accomplish such daunting tasks?
We have a tremendous resource in the USAID ECCN community and we have already begun tackling some important issues. For example, recently we have launched efforts to improve evidence and measurement in equitable education programming. We are building strategies and practices that allow us to better understand how multiple risks interact with education systems through Rapid Education and Risk Analysis. And we are creating tools and guidance to systematically assess safe learning environments, and continually adapt our programs through feedback loops using the right data.
Part of USAID ECCN’s mission is to continually reach out within our community to develop and share knowledge and to identify practice areas that require improvement. To further this mandate, USAID ECCN will in the coming months embark on the pursuit of a new learning agenda. As we do so, we will reach out to our members to ask: what are the critical areas of our practice that need attention so that we can be fit for purpose to meet the expectations of the new global agenda?
We want to hear from you. Please leave your thoughts below in the comment section.
Nina Papadopoulos is USAID’s Education in Crisis and Conflict Team Lead. Jim Rogan is USAID ECCN’s Education in Crisis and Conflict Specialist.