By Yasmine Sherif
NEW YORK, Apr 14 2021 (IPS-Partners)
“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity,” Nelson Mandela once said. Today, the humanity of 128 million children and adolescents living in countries is impacted by armed conflicts, forced displacement and climate-induced disasters, where virtually every single one of their human rights are being challenged. The most central one, and in all too many cases, their only hope – their inherent right to an inclusive quality education, as enshrined in international human rights conventions – is brutally challenged, if not also willfully ignored or denied.
It is hard to wrap one’s head around the fact that this is still happening in the 21st century.
During ECW’s travels to witness first-hand their reality under COVID-19 in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, we have stood face to face with children, youth, teachers, ministers and communities suffering violence, dispossession, extreme poverty, displacement and a chronic fear of whether they will survive. We have seen their silent and painful struggle to exercise or deliver on the inherent right to an education. What they are facing is not the hope of humanity, but rather the despair of utter inhumanity.
We can make a difference in all their lives; so why don’t we? Despite the economic recession wrought upon the world by COVID-19, there is still an abundance of financial resources in the world, which – if more equitably distributed – could be used to invest in their right to an inclusive and continued quality education. Wealthier governments and the private sector can afford to be humane and invest in humanity. It is not just a privilege or even duty to do so, but it is also what makes us humane. The future, dignity and empowerment of 128 million children and youth across the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Asia urgently require access to a continued quality education. To deny or ignore their right to a quality education is inhumane.
This week, the Education Cannot Wait Fund’s ‘Case for Investment’ was unanimously approved during our High-Level Steering Group – chaired by The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education – and composed of development ministers, director generals of development, heads of UN agencies, private sector CEOs and high-level representatives of civil society. The European Union and Canada were the first to announce contributions in support of ECW’s Case for Investment during the same meeting. With another 19 ECW strategic donor partners and many more out there yet to join ECW, we are optimistic that we can – and will – join forces to reach our target for 2021/22 of just $400 million.
ECW’s Case for Investment seeks to renew the global promise made by world leaders and the private sector during the 2016 Humanitarian Summit when establishing the Education Cannot Wait Fund. The promise that no child or youth caught in emergencies and protracted crises shall be denied their right to a quality education. This promise will and must be honored. It has never been more urgent, as the world faces an unprecedented global education crisis, with the original estimate of 75 million children and youth left furthest behind now sharply and rapidly increased to 128 million due to COVID-19.
ECW urgently needs at least an additional $400 million to bridge its funding gap for the period 2021-2023 to ensure that an additional 4.5 million crisis-affected children and adolescents – especially 2.7 million girls – receive an education over the next three years. This will bring the total number of children reached by ECW between 2017–2023 to 9 million.
Reaching our funding target means that ECW is able to provide seed funding for Multi-Year Resilience Programmes for at least 26 countries over the next three years, while also leveraging an additional $1 billion towards the outcomes of the programmes. Our seed funding provides certainty and predictability to partners who work together around the clock across the humanitarian and development divide in delivering quality education in the world’s most complex and protracted crises. The ECW model is proven. It works. All that is needed now is the financing.
In the coming months and year, ECW’s Case for Investment will serve as a blueprint to attract the resources required, while also building momentum for a major financing pledging event in early 2022. We will work with all our partners to cement inter-sectoral linkages to ensure a holistic, ‘whole of child’ approach to education, and place special focus on girls and children with disabilities among the millions affected by wars, forced displacement and climate change induced disasters.
“Only on paper has humanity yet achieved glory, beauty, truth, knowledge, virtue and abiding love,” said the Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw. Now we need to move from human rights conventions and summit commitments to truly deliver on the right to a quality education by making our promises a reality for 128 million children and adolescents in the most crisis-affected parts on the globe.
Now is the time to turn the vision of education for every child and youth in conflict, crisis and forced displacement into concrete results. As H.E. Rangina Hamidi, the first female Minister of Education of Afghanistan in the last 30 years – and role model for all Afghan girls – says in our Newsletter interview: “The time to invest in education is now.“
We still have an opportunity to leave behind a legacy of humanity for future generations. We still have a chance to unleash our own humanity to honor the humanity of those left furthest behind. Let us take action together, now.
The author is Director, Education Cannot Wait
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