Education International
Education International

World Humanitarian Summit to tackle urgent issues in refugee crisis

published 23 May 2016 updated 26 May 2016

At the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit being held in Istanbul, education stakeholders are calling on policy leaders to ensure access to education for all displaced children.

Hosted by Turkey, the summit, taking place on 23-24 May, is a global call to action by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and brings the global community together to reaffirm solidarity with people affected by crises.

According to the organisers of the summit, current levels of humanitarian needs are the highest since the Second World War. In the first months of 2016, 125 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Over 60 million people have been forcibly displaced.

Global consultation

In calling for the World Humanitarian Summit, the Secretary-General asked that the search for solutions to the growing challenges facing the humanitarian system be based on and informed by the experience of all relevant stakeholders. Over the course of 18 months, a worldwide consultation process took place to gather the views of affected people, governments, civil society, humanitarian organisations, the private sector, and other partners. The consultation reached more than 23,000 people in 153 countries, making it the most comprehensive consultation on humanitarian action ever done.

In Istanbul, global leaders from government, business, aid organisations, civil society, affected communities, faith-based organisations, international and national non-government organisations (NGOs), academia, diaspora, and youth are set to announce major commitments to action, launch new partnerships aimed at saving lives, and highlight innovations which help reduce suffering and uphold humanity in times of crisis.

Education dimension

The Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW), a German affiliate of Education International (EI), has co-signed an open letter from the German Global Campaign for Education (GGCE) to German President Angela Merkel, Foreign Minister Steinmeier, and Development Minister Müller. In the letter, the German Government is asked to defend the importance of education during this Summit and to show its engagement through adequate funding commitments.

The signatories remind the Government that “the right to education applies to all people at any given moment – including in times of catastrophes, crises and conflicts”. They advocate for a barrier-free and non-discriminatory access to education for children who find themselves in situations of emergency. “Giving each child this chance is an important and necessary response to the global refugee crisis,” the letter asserts.

International momentum

The GGCE welcomes the fact that the German Government has placed the promotion of education as one the pillars of its refugee and humanitarian policy. However, the union believes this should not be restricted to bilateral efforts but take on a coordinated, multilateral dimension.

With the new Education Cannot Wait fund to be created at the Summit in Istanbul, the letter’s signatories demand that the investment from the German Government addresses some of the most poignant challenges faced by education in these times of crises:

- More than 75 million children between three and 18 years of age do not have access to education because of catastrophes of crisis and conflicts

- More than half of the Syrian children who live as refugees in neighbouring countries do not attend school

- According to the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the educational gap needs at least US$8.5 billion dollars to get 75 million of out-of-school children into education;

- In the last10 years, only two per cent of the resources aimed at humanitarian relief were directed towards education


The GGCE calls for an investment “commensurate with Germany’s economic strength” of at least €50 million to the Education Cannot Wait fund. They demand that this amount be added to existing resources for humanitarian aid and not subtracted from them.