February 23, 2018

Emergency education and youth skills initiatives in running for UN award

Children caught up in humanitarian emergencies, like the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, need education to help their lives become normal and to escape from trauma

Photo credit: USAID

The Global Business Coalition for Education - which harnesses the power of major companies - has been named as a finalist in the UN SDG Action Awards.

An initiative to bring the business community together to change children's lives through education is in the running for a major United Nations prize.

The Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education) has been named as a finalist for the UN SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) Action Awards.

The awards recognise outstanding achievements and innovative efforts to promote action on the SDGs - a set of global targets set by world leaders to be met by the year 2030. SDG4 promises inclusive and quality education for every child.

GBC-Education, which harnesses the power of more than 140 businesses, was selected because of two major innovative partnerships:

  • REACT (Rapid Education Action) initiative. It identifies, matches and deploys corporate resources to emergency situations in countries across the globe. The digital platform’s immediacy and ease of access means help from more than 55 companies can be targeted to the most urgent educational needs.
  • Youth Skills and Innovative Initiative. It convenes business leaders, youth organisations, international groups and civil society to identify ways that industry leaders can bridge the skills gap by working directly with young people.

"Business can be on the front line of the response in humanitarian emergencies - moving fast to help deliver education to displaced children," said Tom Fetcher, GBC-Education's Director of Global Strategy.

"Being named as a finalist for the UN SDG Action Awards is heartening. But we can’t celebrate until we see results - more kids in school as a result of new, determined and ingenious coalitions."

The GBC-Education team, based in New York, has leveraged millions of dollars in public-private support to help young people have opportunity through education.

One example of its members in action is the HP Livelihoods Center in Istanbul, Turkey, to support refugee education. Watch how it helped Syrian refugee Marisa.

The winners of seven categories in the UN SDG Action Awards will be announced on March 21 during the Global Festival of Action for Sustainable Development in Bonn, Germany.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom and United States have joined forces to launch the Grand Humanitarian Challenge to find the next technological breakthrough that could save and transform millions of lives in the deadliest areas of conflict.

More than 130 million people caught up in humanitarian emergencies need help. But the daily dangers they face mean many cannot be reached by traditional deliveries of aid. 

Technological innovations to assist them would seem a no-brainer. Yet less than 1% of all humanitarian aid focuses on investing in new methods or ideas.

That's where the Grand Humanitarian Challenge comes in, with a fund of £11 million ($15 million). Grants of up to £150,000 ($210,000) will be provided to help get innovative technology projects off the ground - and a further £600,000 ($840,000) so that successful projects can grow even bigger.

The Saffa Girls School in Ramallah Governorate, West Bank, is one of 57 schools where USAID provided training to teachers

Photo credit: USAID

In a departure from traditional forms of aid, this will see new low-cost technology being produced for the most remote places and extreme conditions. 

The challenge is equally funded by the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

The key focus areas are safe water and sanitation, energy, life-saving information, and health supplies and services. But at the launch in London this week there was a hint that education-related innovation could find a way to be included.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and USAID Administrator Mark Green

Mark Green, Administrator of USAID, was asked if the challenge was open to ideas and technological fixes that can improve access to education. 

He replied: “What gets me up in the middle of the night is kids being born in camps, raised in camps, growing up in camps without sufficient access to education.

“God willing, the gates are going to come down one day and we’re going to expect them to be productive members of society. 

"I worry they’re going to be vulnerable to the worst exploitative forces - if we fail to find ways to provide education. And not just the basics of education but civic education and connectivity to the world around them."

Penny Mordaunt, the UK's International Development Secretary, said: "Our new Humanitarian Grand Challenge will create cutting-edge technology and leverage the power of the private sector to help respond to conflicts which will save lives, improve conditions for the most vulnerable and make humanitarian responses by the UK and US more effective."

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