The Global Campaign for Education – U.S., a broad-based coalition of over 80 members dedicated to ensuring universal quality education for all children, applauds efforts to address the global refugee crisis during the recent 71st Session of the UN General Assembly. But the group, which includes Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, also calls for greater funding, transparency and accountability regarding commitments made to expand access to refugee education.Although access to education was a focus of both the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants held on September 19 and the U.S. Leaders’ Summit on Refugees held on September 20, it is unclear whether either effort will have any significant impact on access to education for refugees and other forcibly displaced persons.
The concluding document for the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants – the New York Declaration – emphasizes the importance of access to pre-primary through higher education. Yet implementation of the Declaration is contingent on the development of two global compacts by 2018. Given that 3.7 million refugee children are currently out of school, this time frame is too long to meet their immediate needs.
“As an organization focused on providing refugees with access to a quality education, Jesuit Refugee Service urges the U.S. and other world leaders to deliver on their commitments and work with us to ensure that every displaced child who seeks an education is afforded that opportunity,” said Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., JRS/USA Interim Executive Director.
The U.S. Leaders’ Summit on Refugees featured a goal of increasing access to education for one million additional refugees by the end of 2016, although how this goal was achieved remains unclear. The White House has stated that 17 refugee-hosting countries pledged to increase access to education for refugees by constructing new classrooms, training and hiring new teachers, and certifying and streamlining refugee education programs. Yet the U.S. must provide greater clarity regarding this claim, including a clear summary of commitments by country, an indication of whether the commitment was new or had been pledged at an earlier date, and specifics regarding how commitments will be tracked and countries will be held accountable.
In an effort to advance the efforts of Education Cannot Wait – a new UN fund for children whose education has been disrupted by conflicts and natural disasters – we are pleased that the fund’s Steering Committee announced an initial $42 million investment over the next two years that will give nearly 1.5 million children in Chad, Syria and Yemen access to a quality education. In addition, the Government of Canada announced a $15.3 million contribution and the Government of Denmark committed to donating $11.2 million to the Fund. By joining initial commitments made by Norway, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the European Union and the U.S., Canada and Denmark are demonstrating incredible support for these important programs. It is vital that governments increase funding for education in all settings, including development and emergency contexts.
But even with these new commitments, we must still close a $37 million gap needed to adequately launch this critical platform, with an eye towards meeting the Fund’s 5-year financing plan of $3.85 billion. We also acknowledge the unique role that the Global Partnership for Education plays in ensuring access to education for all and call for full alignment of the Education Cannot Wait fund with GPE as soon as possible.
Jesuit Refugee Service is committed to raising $35 million to expand and strengthen its education programs for refugees worldwide through the JRS Global Education Initiative. In 2015, JRS provided educational services to more than 141,000 people in 38 countries. The initiative’s goal is to offer educational services to at least 240,000 people by the year 2020.
JRS is rooted in the Jesuit tradition of educating young people, and offers formal and non-formal education programs in 38 of the countries where it operates. Its services are available to refugees and displaced persons regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs.
JRS considers education a life-saving intervention and offers a variety of opportunities for refugees and displaced persons to achieve an education both in refugee camps and in non-camp settings. These include access to pre-primary, primary, secondary and post-secondary education. In addition, JRS offers vocational and teacher training programs, targeted outreach to women, girls and those with disabilities, and supports the building of new schools and distribution of school books and materials.
As civil society representatives, we call on UN Summit organizers to ensure that implementation of the New York Declaration takes place in a timely manner and urge the U.S. to provide greater transparency regarding commitments made to increase access to refugee education and that those commitments are swiftly acted upon.