The first-ever World Humanitarian Summit being held in Istanbul on 23-24 May, brings together the global community 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.

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. 

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 last 10 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.