Today, an unprecedented 59.5 million people around the world have been forced from their homes, 40% of whom originate from the Middle East. There are more than five million Palestinian refugees and four million Syrians who have been displaced outside their country. Another 7.5 million are displaced internally. An additional three million displaced in Iraq brings the total to 19.5 million There are more than five million Palestinian refugees and four million Syrians who have been displaced outside their country. Another 7.5 million are displaced internally. An additional three million displaced in Iraq brings the total to 19.5 million In addition to the more than five million Palestinian refugees, there are now nearly five million Syrians who have been displaced outside their country, and another 7.6 million who are displaced internally – 3.5 million of whom are children. An additional 3.5 million displaced in Iraq brings the total to over 20 million.

When I travel to visit our programs, parents and children affected by emergencies and protracted crises consistently highlight the importance of education. These children will one day be responsible for shaping and leading their own nation as doctors, teachers, engineers, lawyers and parents. Yet education accounts for a small fraction of humanitarian aid; in 2014 only 2% of funds from humanitarian appeals were directed to education. Most funding is provided through short-term humanitarian appeals, but we cannot build an education system equipped to cope with a protracted crisis on the foundations of short-term and unpredictable funding cycles.
The Education Cannot Wait platform that will be officially launched today at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul addresses this shortage of funding, and its unpredictability, as well as ensures that everyone who matters is around the table. I strongly believe that only a collective response to the current education crisis can ensure a more efficient delivery of quality education in these critical emergency contexts. The inclusion of the philanthropic community and the private sector in this group is critical in order to attract both the new funds that are so desperately needed, and contribute new skills and expertise to the sector.
Education Cannot Wait is timely and it is necessary as only a collective response based on true partnerships between donor organizations – be they public, private, or philanthropic -, implementing organizations, host governments and the beneficiaries can deliver the necessary results required to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 4 – inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all – by 2030. Because of this, Dubai Cares will commit USD 2.5 million over the next two years to the start-up phase of the Education Cannot Wait Secretariat.

Another part of ensuring an improved response to education in emergencies is to invest in what methods work best. At Dubai Cares we use research to design and fund innovative and stimulating programs that test alternative models and hypothesis to increase the impact of the interventions we fund. Monitoring, evaluation and learning helps us understand what works and what does not and allows us to adapt to changes, mobilize more resources, develop innovative approaches and better utilize funds. One example of how we do this is through innovative partnerships. We recently partnered with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and New York University’s (NYU) Global TIES for Children in Niger, Sierra Leone and Syrian refugees in Lebanon for an initiative that integrates low-cost learning strategies developed specifically for use in conflict-affected contexts to strengthen children’s cognitive, academic, and social-emotional skills. We then evaluate these strategies in order to build an evidence base about what works to improve children’s learning in these contexts. At the WHS, Dubai Cares commits to further expanding the evidence base on what works in education in emergencies and protracted crises by spending 10% of all our funding for education in emergencies on research and evaluations, and sharing the findings with our partners in the sector as they arise. We will also commit to increasing the share of our programs that reach refugee and internally displaced children and youth, as well as children and youth of host communities, to 1/3 of our financial portfolio over the next two years.

Education gives us hope. It makes us more resilient. It makes us stronger. We cannot allow more than 34 million out-of-school children and adolescents living in conflict-affected countries to grow up hopeless, vulnerable and fragile. We cannot rob them of their potential by not allowing them to be educated. We have to act now. Education Cannot Wait.

 Dubai Cares, part of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, is a UAE-based global philanthropic organization working towards providing children in developing countries with access to quality education through the design and funding of programs that aim to be integrated, impactful, sustainable and scalable. Our mission to increase children’s access to quality education is guided by a common principle: children ready for schools, schools ready for children, parents and community ready to play their role.