It has been recognized that conflicts and disasters are fundamental obstacles to the achievement of quality Education For All. Such emergencies can impact access to and the quality of education provision in so far as they may disrupt learning progression, have a psychological impact on students and teachers, lead to loss of life or separation from family members, and destroy or damage learning and school materials and academic infrastructure. There are also system-level impacts of conflicts and natural disasters including loss of education system data, lack of coordination of relief efforts, and the incoherence between relief efforts and the national long-term education objectives.
There is growing international commitment to reducing the risk of disasters. The Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters (HFA) – was adopted by 168 states to substantially reduce disaster losses in lives as well as in the social, economic and environmental assets of communities and countries by 2015. As emphasized in the HFA, disaster risk reduction is a central issue for development policies and is of interest to various science, humanitarian and environmental fields. Disasters undermine development achievements, impoverishing people and nations; without serious efforts to address disaster losses, disasters will increasingly become a serious obstacle to achieving the MDGs.
The need for conflict prevention is additionally underscored by current global challenges such as climate change, global economic instability, energy depletion, and scarcity of water and food. Education is impacted by these challenges and can also impact on them. Therefore, planning for prevention is not only morally sound, but also cost-effective in an era of scarce educational resources. (See IIEP’s ‘Guidebook for Planning Education in Emergencies and Reconstruction’, Chapter 1.2 on Prevention of Conflict and Preparedness for Disaster [IIEP-UNESCO, 2010] for additional information).
It is evident that education can play a critical role in the prevention of disasters and conflicts. The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Education Cluster has made significant progress in raising the profile of the role of education in preparing for disaster. It has identified how education, in its unique position to mitigate man made and/or natural risks, can support overcoming the risks of fragility or emergency.
A great deal of effort has been made to strengthen the capacity of countries to mitigate the impact of natural disasters and to prevent conflict from occurring. The United Nations International Strategy on Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) 2006-2007 campaign ‘Disaster Risk Reduction starts at school’ is an example of the recognition of the potential of schools to limit the effects of natural disasters (see Disaster Reduction Begins at school – Good Practices and Lessons Learned [UNISDR, 2007]). Work has also been undertaken at a systems level by Education Cluster member agencies. IIEP- UNESCO has been engaged in the Education Cluster’s capacity development initiatives for senior ministry of education officials (as part of the Education Cluster Capacity Development Task Team). This has included the revision of IIEP’s publication of the ‘Guidebook for planning education in emergencies and reconstruction’ (IIEP-UNESCO, 2010) which fills a gap in the availability of support materials for ministries of education and external planners and managers in countries affected by conflict and natural disasters. Furthermore, in collaboration with UNICEF West and Central Africa Region, IIEP is drafting guidelines for ministries of education on integrating emergency preparedness and into education sector planning processes.
In order to facilitate discussion on the integration of preparedness measures into education sector plans between international organizations, ministries of education, UN agencies and other relevant actors, IIEP hosted this online forum on ‘Planning and Preparedness for Education in Emergencies’ from 14 – 25 June 2010. The forum provided a space for practitioners from all levels to share knowledge and experiences on what preparedness and conflict mitigation aspects have already been incorporated into education systems around the world. This information will hopefully enrich the content of the future work for practitioners and be a source of inspiration for the above-mentioned Guidelines for ministries of education on integrating emergency preparedness and into education sector planning. These guidelines aim to present practical ways in which the different steps of the planning process—from education sector diagnosis to evaluation and monitoring of education systems—can address the system’s vulnerabilities to conflict or natural disasters and thus become better prepared and resilient to such emergencies.
In addition to the 500 members of IIEP’s Alumni network, there were over 200 participants who subscribed to the forum.
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