Armed conflict and education: the UNESCO 2011 report

Armed conflict and education: the UNESCO 2011 report

A hidden crisis: turning the spotlight on armed conflict and education

Violent conflict is one of the greatest development challenges facing the international community. Beyond the immediate human suffering it causes, it is a source of poverty, inequality and economic stagnation. Children and education systems are often on the front line of violent conflict.

This major UNESCO report examines the damaging consequences of conflict on education. It looks to set out an agenda for protecting the right to education during conflict, strengthening provision for children, youth and adults affected by conflict, and rebuilding education systems in countries emerging from conflict. The report also aims to explore the role of inappropriate education policies in creating conditions for violent conflict. Drawing on experience from a range of countries, it identifies problems and sets out solutions that can help make education a force for peace, social cohesion and human dignity.

The authors of the report detail a number of telling statistics which highlight the scale of the problem:

  • Only 79% of young people are literate in conflict-affected poor countries, compared with 93% in other poor countries
  • In conflict-affected poor countries, 28 million children of primary school age are out of school – 42% of the world total
  • Twenty-one developing countries are currently spending more on arms than on primary
    schools; if they were to cut military spending by 10%, they could put an additional 9.5 million children into school 
  • Education accounts for just 2% of humanitarian aid. And no sector has a smaller share of humanitarian appeals funded: just 38% of aid requests for education are met, which is around half the average for all sectors.

The report also offers an 'agenda' to tackle the issue, which focuses on four key areas:

  1. Failures of protection - governments should strengthen the systems that monitor and report on human rights violations affecting education, support national plans aimed at stopping those violations and impose targeted sanctions on egregious and repeat offenders
  2. Failures of provision - There is an urgent need to change the humanitarian mindset and recognize
    the vital role of education during conflict-related emergencies. The financing for humanitarian
    pooled funds should be increased from around US$730 million to US$2 billion to cover shortfalls in
    education financing
  3. Failures of reconstruction - Donors need to break down the artificial divide between humanitarian and long-term aid. More development assistance should be channeled through national pooled funds, such as the successful facility in Afghanistan. Working through the reformed Education for All Fast Track Initiative (FTI), donors should establish more effective multilateral arrangements for pooled funding
  4. Failures of peacebuilding. To unlock education’s potential to nurture peace, governments and donors need to prioritize the development of inclusive education systems, with policy on language, curriculum and decentralization informed by an assessment of the potential impact on long-standing grievances. Schools should be seen first and foremost as places for imparting the most vital of skills: tolerance, mutual respect and the ability to live peacefully with others.


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