Breakthrough moment as EU increases education’s share of humanitarian aid to 10%

Christos Stylianides At 2016 Education In Emergencies Event In Brussels
EU Commissioner Christo Stylianides at an event to promote education in emergencies in Brussels in 2016 (European Union 2016 - European Parliament)

Theirworld campaigns for increased spending on education in emergencies - and European Commissioner Christos Stylianides has consistently delivered and led by example.

When children have their lives turned upside down by conflicts and natural disasters, education is crucial in ensuring they are safe and can build a future.

But while humanitarian emergencies have left 75 million children out of school, too little has been done to help them return to education as quickly as possible.

Only 2% of all humanitarian aid was being spent on education when Theirworld began campaigning in 2015 for the international community to step up their efforts and increase that to at least 4% to 6%.

The European Union has led the way since then, gradually increasing its share of aid on education. And now – in a landmark moment for education in emergencies – Christos Stylianides, the EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, has announced that 10% of its aid spending will go to education in 2019.

“Education in emergencies is an absolute priority for the European Union,” he said. “Since 2015, our support has increased from 1% of the European humanitarian budget in 2015 to 10% in 2019. 

“The European Union is leading by example. It is a global champion of education in emergencies. We are making a concrete investment to peace by helping every child get access to school, anywhere and at all times. 

“Education is the foundation for everything else. It is a protective shield against violence, sexual exploitation, or radicalisation, especially in humanitarian crises. It makes children feel safe and provides them with opportunities for a brighter future.”

In 2015, Stylianides echoed Theirworld’s campaigning call by declaring education in emergencies a priority area. Since then, more than 6.5 million children and teachers in 55 crisis-affected countries have benefited from increased EU support for access to quality education and training.

Theirworld – through our campaigners and network of Global Youth Ambassadors – also led calls in 2015 for a global fund for education in emergencies to be established. This resulted in the 2016 launch of Education Cannot Wait, which reached 1.3 million children in 19 crisis-hit countries in its first two years of operations.

Theirworld President Justin van Fleet said: “When we first pushed for the establishment of Education Cannot Wait, only 2% of humanitarian aid was being dedicated to education. So we also advocated for that to be increased to at least 4% to 6%.

“Throughout our campaigns, Christos Stylianides has pledged that the EU would exceed our call to action and devote 10% of its humanitarian budget to education. Now he has delivered on that promise and shown the way for others to do the same.

“Theirworld is challenging all donors to go beyond the minimum bar and match the EU’s pathbreaking commitment of spending 10% of their humanitarian aid on education.”

Here we look at some of the key dates in the timeline of Christos Stylianides’ support for education in emergencies.

July 7, 2015

At the Oslo Education for Development Summit, Stylianides announced his objective to dedicate 4% of the EU humanitarian aid budget to education for children in emergency situations. 

He said: “No child should miss out on education. We want to make education a priority in emergency situations so that more children can have access to learning, to teachers, to a brighter future. I am truly committed to this cause”.

He spoke out after Global Youth Ambassadors from Theirworld’s A World at School movement handed over the #UpForSchool petition – which had more than eight million signatures at the time, rising to over 10 million when it was given to the United Nations in September that year.

The handover came days after more than 30 of the world’s leading charities and campaign organisations, led by Theirworld, issued a joint statement calling for a public commitment for an education in emergencies fund to be made in Oslo. This led to the launch of Education Cannot Wait – the first fund for education in emergencies.

September 29, 2015

Stylianides reiterated the EU’s intention to increase the education element of its humanitarian funding to 4% and urged all donors to do the same. His call came at an event hosted by the Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education).

Malnutrition And Hunger Safe Schools Billy 2

After food and shelter, the need for education is a priority in responding to humanitarian emergencies (UN Photo / Eskinder Debebe)

April 4, 2016

The commissioner demonstrated the 4% target had been achieved when he announced the EU’s commitment to quadruple support to education in emergencies from €11 million in 2015 to €52 million. The package would reach 2.3 million children in 42 countries.

Stylianides said: “I am truly committed to this cause and will continue to be for as long as it takes to make a very real difference.”

May 23, 2016

He was hailed by Theirworld and GBC-Education founder Sarah Brown as an inspiration for donors investing in education in emergencies. At a GBC-Education event during the World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey, Stylianides said: “I have an obsession because I believe without education, there is no future.” He called on all donors to earmark 4% of their money for education.

November 30, 2016

The EU showed the way forward again when it announced it would increase the education share of its aid funding in 2017 from 4% to 6% – six times higher than in 2014. The move was revealed at the Education in Emergencies Forum in Belgium, hosted by the European Commission. 

Stylianides called on other international donors to step up their efforts, saying: “Education is not a privilege, education is a right. Our aim is to enable access to quality education in a safe learning environment for vulnerable children caught in situations of emergency. By funding education, we can make a real investment in children’s futures and their hope for a better life.”

Christos Stylianides With Syrian Refugee Child

Christos Stylianides has witnessed the plight of many refugee children like this little Syrian boy (European Union / ECHO / Amro Anwar)

March 16, 2017

It was revealed that the EU’s biggest programme for education in emergencies would help 230,000 Syrian refugee children attend school in Turkey. Vulnerable families whose children regularly went to classes would get cash transfers through the project.

Stylianides said: “Education in emergency situations is a top EU priority. Our moral duty is to save this generation of refugees children and invest in their future.”

April 5, 2017

The EU hosted a conference on the Syrian refugee crisis in Brussels. 

Christos Stylianides said pledges of $6 billion had been made for 2017 and added: “We agreed to continue to work towards ensuring No Lost Generation of children in Syria and in the region to to increase our efforts to reach our goal set in London (in 2016) – namely of getting all refugee children and vulnerable host children in quality education as well as to increase access to learning for 1.75 million children out of school in Syria.”

August 17, 2017

In an in-depth interview with Theirworld, Stylianides talked about the urgent need for education in humanitarian emergencies. 

He said: “I have been advocating for education in emergencies since I took office in 2014. I had already pledged at the Oslo Summit on Education for Development in 2015 that EU funding would reach 4% of our humanitarian assistance. 

“Considering the financing gap, at the World Humanitarian Summit a year after, I committed to go even further and reach 10% by the end of my mandate. By today, the EU has become a top donor for education in emergencies. 

“During these past three years I have also seen views changing at the highest political levels and on the ground to embrace the importance of humanitarian assistance when it comes to education.”

Christos Stylianedes With Dynamo And Sarah Brown

(Dynamo World )

April 25, 2017

At another EU-hosted funding conference on Syrian refugees in Brussels, Stylianides spoke after renowned magician Dynamo presented over 70,000 calls for action on education for every child from Theirworld campaigners.

He said: “I am happy to see that education features as a top priority at the Brussels conference. Education saves lives, protects children and empowers new generations.”

May 18, 2018

Stylianides announced plans for the EU to increase its spending on education to 10% of its emergency aid by 2019.

“With humanitarian crises growing across the world, millions of children are at risk of growing up without education. We have a responsibility to act to prevent lost generations,” he said.