European commissioner Christos Stylianides announced the increase Friday as the European Commission published its first policy dedicated to education in emergencies, an issue that has been of concern to advocates in recent years amid a global displacement crisis.
EU’s spending on the issue has been rising steadily, from more than €12 million ($14 million) between 2012 and 2014 to more than €275 million between 2015 and 2018. In 2017, EU dedicated 6 percent of humanitarian spending to education in emergencies, and in 2018 the number will increase to 8 percent.
Brussels-based NGOs decried the EU's "tunnel vision" last year when closed-door negotiations ended with a 6 percent cut to development aid for 2018, while humanitarian spending is set to increase by almost 15 percent.
The commission’s note on the Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises policy outlines four priorities: “Strengthening systems and partnerships for a rapid, efficient, effective and innovative education response; promoting access, inclusion and equity; championing education for peace and protection; [and] supporting quality education for better learning outcomes.”
The aim during emergencies and crises is to allow children to return to learning within three months.
“Why am I so obsessed with this?” the European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, asked reporters.
“Because education is the most chronically underfunded sector in emergencies. Almost 75 million [school-aged] children have their education disrupted in emergencies and crises — a shocking number — in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, DRC, South Sudan. The list unfortunately is long and unfortunately keeps growing.”
Between 2012 and 2018, more than 5.5 million children in 52 countries benefited from EU-funded education in emergencies.
Without prospects, the Cypriot commissioner said children “risk falling victim to violence, sexual abuse, forced labour, forced recruitment, forced marriage, radicalization.”
He called education in emergencies not only a moral duty, but also “a strategic investment in global peace and prosperity. I think it’s the most important strategic objective for peace.”
Stylianides said that EU wants to focus on all levels of education, and the policy stresses “life-long learning, including formal and nonformal delivery of established levels of education systems, to include early childhood, primary, secondary, post-secondary non-tertiary, and tertiary education [including technical and vocational training, university, and other forms of skills development].”
“In crisis-affected communities, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys.”— Jonathan Beger, World Vision director of EU Advocacy
Jonathan Beger, World Vision director of EU Advocacy, called the announcement “excellent news for those of us who work with children for whom a lack of education and schooling is a matter of life and death.”
Beger said schooling is a powerful means to protect children during conflict to ensure “they are protected, cared for, have a future and can receive help to overcome their own fears and experiences.”
He added that “the vast amount of the 263 million children who are not in school today live in areas suffering from instability, protracted conflict, and extreme poverty.”
Beger said it was encouraging to see the emphasis placed on girls. “In crisis-affected communities, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys,” he said.
“For girls in particular, education can create a safe space and a platform from which other critical services can be delivered. "