Leveraging Education in Emergencies for Climate Action

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No time to lose: commit to resilience and learning now

Geneva, 20 November 2023 – The climate crisis is accelerating. The 1.5C limit, acknowledged as the point beyond which climate change is almost certainly irreversible, has nearly been reached. Worldwide, warming temperatures, extreme weather and climate-induced disasters are becoming more severe.

At the same time, growing numbers of children and youth are being affected by conflict, disasters and protracted crises. Some 224 million children and youth are having their education impeded due to emergencies, a considerable increase over past years.

“In Syria, even in cities, our lives were closely connected with farming and the land,” explained Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Youth Leader Omar Alkadamani. “The summers brought not only good harvest but also an opportunity to strengthen family and community bonds, a time when people came together to celebrate. Yet, the very land that once provided income became a victim of climate change: There was much less rain fall, and the rivers that sustained our communities dried up, impacting the livelihoods of farmers and millions of people.”

The EiE Hub’s Flagship Report for 2023, on Education in Emergencies and Climate Change, was launched at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on World Children’s Day, 20 November. This day is also the 34th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), making it an appropriate time to focus on the most urgent needs of children and young people worldwide.

“Today is world children’s day,” said H.E. Mr. Julien Thöni, Deputy Permanent Representative, Switzerland. “Let us not forget, today and in all the days ahead, the ongoing need to support education in the face of challenges including climate change.”

The launch was co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations in Geneva, the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the United Nations in Geneva, the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations in Geneva, the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations in Geneva, and the EiE Hub.

The report examines linkages between the climate and environmental crisis and EiE, building on existing reports which show how the climate crisis intersects with, compounds and multiplies disaster risk, biodiversity loss, dangers arising from conflict and violence, and learning losses associated with displacement. It also identifies and examines key roles that EiE is already assuming and key initiatives EiE could and should embrace – singly and in collaboration with other sectors and across the nexus – to advance transformative climate action and to help build resilient education systems able to withstand evermore severe climate-induced crises.

After opening messages from Ambassador Thöni, and Luis Armando Soto Boutin, Head of Cooperation and International Affairs, Ministry of Education, Colombia, the audience heard a video message from Ibrahim, Deputy Speaker of National Children Parliament, Nigeria.

Yasmine Sherif, Executive Director, Education Cannot Wait, also delivered a video message.

“It is high time to see the interrelation between the climate crisis and the education crisis,” she said. “They’re not separate, they are one – and if you are going to invest in climate change you have to invest part of that in education.”

Andrew Harper, Special Adviser on Climate Action to the High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, also spoke, as did Verena Knaus, Global Chief, Migration and Displacement, UNICEF, and Jerome Oberreit, Executive Director, BRAC Global.

“We need to think about scale,” said Harper. “This report is great, but now the next step comes – and that’s where it becomes about money…We need to emphasise what the loss and damage is, and what the added value is of ensuring education.”

Closing Remarks were given by H.E. Leslie Norton, Permanent Representative, Canada.

The Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies is a physical and virtual platform that aims to be a catalyst for joint action among its members, and to increase collaboration with other sectors to prioritise education in emergencies. Together they will work to create change internationally, increase country-level impact, and foster political, financial and operational commitments for EiE.