Geneva, 16 February 2023 – Parliamentarians from a wide range of countries formally adopted the Geneva Declaration on Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises during a high-level event at the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Financing Conference on 16 February 2023.
The event was organised by the International Parliamentary Network for Education in Emergencies (IPNEd) and the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies (EiE Hub).
The Declaration is a political statement, developed in consultation with legislators from a wide range of countries and informed by experts in education in emergencies. It provides a framework for raising awareness of the unprecedented impact of forced displacement and humanitarian crises on education, and sets out the challenge posed by humanitarian crises to the realisation of the education SDG. It also identifies the commitments parliamentarians can make, both alone and in collaboration with peers from within their parliaments, regions and globally, to act in response to the challenges posed by humanitarian crises. The Geneva Declaration was formally enacted by the current and former parliamentarians present, and will be shared with other parliamentarians who will be encouraged to identify practical ways in which they can implement it.
“We’re very struck in our work by the linkages between the lack of education and other risks to children – protection risks, health risks, food access risks,” said David Miliband, former U.K. Member of Parliament and Foreign Secretary, opening the session. “We need to address all of these, such as by preparing properly for climate events, taking anticipatory action that ensures continuity of access to education, and therefore to health, protection, and food as well.”
Active parliamentarians were front and centre in discussing and adopting the Geneva Declaration, including among others Mehnaz Akber Aziz, Co-Chair of IPNEd and Member of the Pakistan National Assembly, Nicolas Walder, Swiss Member of Parliament and member of the Francophone Parliamentary Assembly, and Awut Deng Acuil, Member of Parliament and Minister for Education of South Sudan.
“To secure education budgets, parliamentarians must stand up and fight for it. As an education minister, it makes it much easier (when parliamentary support is strong),” said Acuil. “If we do not push the finance ministry, they will discard our budget, and put the money somewhere else.”
“In many countries, education is fighting for life – people tell us, ‘Instead of talking about education, talk about putting food on the table’ – that is the challenge we are having,” said Akber Aziz, who also talked about Pakistan’s devastating floods, and the need to act in solidarity with countries like Türkiye, Syria, Ukraine and others who are also living through crisis. “But we are the elected representatives of our constituents. We have to be the ones fighting – for women’s rights, for the rights of children, for the right to education.”
“For us in the International Francophonie, the right to education is essential,” said Walder. “Education is a lifeline for children everywhere, it brings stability and hope to young people and their families. As parliamentarians, it is our duty to vote in education budgets adequate to the needs in our countries, and to pursue solidarity and concerted action.”
The disruption caused by conflicts, violence, climate change, pandemic, and the global food and nutrition crises pose a growing threat to the goal of ensuring all the world’s girls and boys complete free, equitable, and quality education by 2030. There has been exponential growth in the number of children and youth in need, and demand for education by affected communities.
“Unfortunately, political understanding of and commitment to education in emergencies is insufficient,” said IPNEd Cofounder and Executive Director Joseph Nhan-O’Reilly. “In response, the Geneva Declaration on Political Leadership for Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises identifies commitments that parliamentarians can make to move education from the margins to the centre of humanitarian policy making and financing.”
“The Declaration is a key outcome of our collaboration but there’s more to come,” said EiE Hub coordinator Petra Heusser. “There is a huge amount of untapped potential to be found in working with parliamentarians and engaging all levels of government.”