A Bridge to Hope: Education for all children everywhere, including in humanitarian crises

Parliamentarians from the Swiss National Assembly met at an event organised by the cross-party group on the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 (SDGs) with the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies (EiE Hub) and International Parliamentary Network for Education (IPNEd), on 19 September to discuss key issues related to Education in Emergencies (EiE) and how they relate to Switzerland’s foreign policy goals and strategy. 

The EiE Hub and IPNEd are working to grow political understanding and commitment, to move EiE from the margins to the centre of humanitarian policy making and financing – in a number of countries, including Switzerland. This is an essential initiative in the face of persistent underprioritisation and underfunding of EiE. 

This is a key moment for Swiss legislators to take a closer look at education in emergencies, with the upcoming approval of Switzerland’s International Cooperation Strategy 2025-2028 and Switzerland co-hosting the Global Refugee Forum together with UNHCR and co-convenors Colombia, France, Japan, Jordan, Niger and Uganda. 

Ambassador Dominik Stillhart, Deputy Director General, Head of Humanitarian Aid and SHA Division, emphasised the need for politicians and leaders to “form larger alliances, and avoid thinking in silos.” This was his response to a question from National Council Member Sandra Locher Benguerel, asking what action was most needed from parliamentarians to support EiE.

Only 10-30% of humanitarian funding appeals for education are met. During COVID-19 the education sector received only 3% of the total stimulus packages in response to the health crisis, and only 0.7% of funds requested under the COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan have been allocated to education. 

“Access to quality education and school attendance enables refugees to create hope for the future, as well as safe spaces where children can overcome distress,” said National Council Member Nicolas Walder. “The same can be true for adult refugees as well.” 

Without concerted action, including more and reliable multi-year funding to reach and teach those affected by crises, the world will fall far short of realising SDG4. A lack of political understanding of the extent and seriousness of emergencies’ threat to educational progress undermines effective and sustained action. 

“Given the enormous challenges facing the global community, we need everyone, everywhere, involved and empowered to help overcome these challenges – education is an essential basis for this,” said Anja Klug, Head of the Office for Switzerland and Liechtenstein, UNHCR. “That is why the Global Refugee Forum promotes the integration of refugees into national education systems.” 

“Without access to education, there is no freedom, no peace – only poverty and deprivation,” said National Council Member François Pointet. “Recurring crises are a threat to access to education, and we must do all we can to confront this challenge.” 

Locher Benguerel reiterated: “Switzerland must do everything it can to ensure that children and young people in humanitarian emergencies are granted the right to education.” 

IPNEd and the EiE Hub facilitated the adoption – in February 2023 in Geneva – of a political Declaration on education in emergencies and protracted crises (the “Geneva Declaration”). It is designed to provide a framework for raising awareness of the unprecedented impact of forced displacement and humanitarian crises on education, and to identify and crowd in support for actions which parliamentarians can take in response to the challenges which humanitarian crises posed to education by humanitarian crises.