Humanitarian emergencies are on the rise owing to climate change and its consequences; conflicts; and not least COVID-19. Even prior to the coronavirus outbreak, some 258 million school-aged children and young people worldwide were unable to attend school. The situation is worsening because of COVID-19: the UN estimates that a further 24 million children will not find their way back into schooling due to school closures and precarious economic situations. Progress achieved in recent years in the area of education is being rolled back. Last year, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged the international community not to neglect education, because otherwise a "generational catastrophe" with lasting social and economic ramifications would ensue. Conflicts, irregular migration and displacement are also increasing. On average, refugee situations last 17 years – an entire childhood. Globally, 48% of refugee children do not attend school. Approximately 127 million of those children without school access live in countries affected by emergency situations. In addition to creating prospects, access to education offers hope and protection to children, who are the most vulnerable in crises. Nevertheless, education is one of the sectors that receives the least recognition and funding in humanitarian disasters.
Launch of the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies
Based on its humanitarian tradition and with a particular emphasis on protection and education, Switzerland pledged to establish Geneva as a global hub for education in emergencies on the occasion of the 2019 Global Refugee Forum in Geneva. With regard to education in emergencies, International Geneva has the hitherto untapped potential of a platform that promotes cross-sectoral cooperation with a view to creating educational opportunities on the ground for young people affected by crises and displacement. As a result, the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies was officially launched on 25 January 2021.
International Geneva – host to the United Nations Office at Geneva, 38 international organisations, the permanent representations of 177 UN member states, 750 NGOs, and leading academic institutions – offers added value for education in emergency situations. The Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies (a virtual and physical platform) brings together actors who are directly involved in the education sector as well as organisations active in areas such as protection, healthcare, peacebuilding and human rights. This winning combination of thematic expertise has the power to contribute towards significantly improving the educational situation of young people affected by crises, conflicts and displacement.
The Hub pursues the following objectives:
1. Facilitating inclusive education for children and young people in emergencies by strengthening the cooperation of International Geneva actors.
2. Raising awareness among governments and partner organisations to ensure that education is considered one of the highest priorities before, during and after emergencies and protracted crises.
3. Improving the effectiveness of operational measures in the area of education in emergencies through better data, innovative research and solutions that provide access to quality education while developing resilient education systems.
Education is a priority of Switzerland's international cooperation
Switzerland's International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24, which is derived from the foreign policy strategy, accords great importance to education. Conflicts, natural disasters, displacement and irregular migration are set to rise in the coming years. Protecting the most vulnerable population groups in crisis and displacement contexts and safeguarding the provision of quality basic services – in particular education and healthcare – is one of the four main objectives of the current international cooperation strategy. It is in Switzerland's interests to reduce the causes of displacement and irregular migration and to guarantee quality basic services on the ground.
The Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies, whose activities cut across thematic areas, offers the opportunity to bring about change with regard to the protection and education of children affected by crises and displacement.
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