Much work has been done in recent decades to reform the aid sector. Several landmark initiatives have pushed for aid to be more integrated, predictable, efficient, accountable and human-centred. These include: Humanitarian Reform and its cluster approach; 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals; Grand Bargain and the New Way of Working initiatives from the World Humanitarian Summit; Global Compact on Refugees; and United Nations Reform, led by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Central to these efforts are the principles of collaboration and partnership, with the global aid community acknowledging that no single actor can meet the full scope of needs alone.
This is truer than ever today, as the world faces multiplying armed conflicts; climate changeinduced disasters and unprecedented forced displacement; longer-lasting humanitarian crises; record numbers of forcibly displaced people since the Second World War; and hard-won human development gains threatened by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
How can we aid stakeholders collaborate more effectively to meet these challenges? Part of the answer lies in how aid efforts are coordinated.
This was stressed by UN Secretary-General Guterres at the launch of his efforts to reposition the UN Development System to deliver on the 2030 Agenda: “We are held back by insufficient coordination and accountability on system-wide activities… far too much of what we do is rooted in the past rather than linked to the future we want.”
While ‘coordination’ may seem theoretical, in reality it has very concrete implications, as this report and the full body of work of the Global Partners’ Project (GPP) demonstrates. Effective coordination is crucial for us aid stakeholders to: develop a shared understanding of needs; avoid duplicating efforts; identify and cover important gaps in education responses – especially to reach the most vulnerable and marginalised children; and, to provide coordinated, coherent, collaborative and sustainable responses.
A crucial finding from the project is evidence for the connection between ’good coordination’ and better education outcomes – particularly in terms of education access, continuity and protection.
Effective coordination is the backbone that makes holistic, human-centred education responses possible. To be more accountable to crisis-affected children, youth and communities, we must strengthen our response coordination mechanisms to achieve collective outcomes.
As crises evolve to become more complex and long-lasting, our coordination efforts must also evolve to anticipate and address education needs.
As highlighted in the case studies that inform this report, education aid stakeholders in several complex humanitarian crises have successfully used coordination mechanisms to break sector silos and adapt to specific contexts. These include: learning from refugee responses to address internal displacement responses; linking education to other key sectors, such as child protection, gender and livelihoods; strengthening connections between local, national and regional education stakeholders through a whole-of-society approach; enhancing coherence and mutually reinforcing assistance between humanitarian and development aid, linked to both community level and national education systems.
Despite these successes, much remains to be done to remove systemic barriers that disconnect the main global, national and local education coordination systems. This report recommends concrete steps to implement the necessary changes across the global education aid community to address these challenges. We have no other option than to collaborate more effectively if we are to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) – inclusive and equitable quality education for all.
As the GPP comes to an end, it is inspiring that the Global Education Cluster (GEC), the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) will continue to work together to strengthen education in emergencies (EiE) coordination, formalising their continued collaboration through the Initiative to Strengthen Education in Emergencies Coordination (ISEEC). Real coordination starts with the acknowledgement that we are catalysts for collective efforts. The cause we serve is larger than ourselves or our institutions. The GPP has laid out the pathway and set the tone for this positive approach.
To successfully break down silos that hamper aid coordination, efficiency and accountability, change must first come from within our institutions’ ways of working and our individual attitudes.
As Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. His words are not just a noble ideal, they provide essential guidance for achieving genuine cooperation and coordination in our service for those left furthest behind.
Education Cannot Wait