Wars and natural disasters deny generations the knowledge and opportunities that an education can provide. Education is not only a right, but in emergency situations through to recovery quality education provides physical, psychosocial and cognitive protection that can sustain and save lives. Education in emergencies ensures dignity and sustains life by offering safe spaces for learning, where children and youth who need other assistance can be identified and supported. Education mitigates the psychosocial impact of conflict and disasters by giving a sense of routine, stability, structure and hope for the future. It can save lives by protecting against exploitation and harm, including forced early marriage, recruitment into armed forces and armed groups or organised crime. Lastly, education provides the critical survival skills and coping mechanisms through the dissemination of lifesaving information about landmine safety, HIV/AIDS prevention, conflict resolution and peace-building.
In order to develop a tool to help achieve a minimum level of educational access and quality in emergencies through to recovery as well as to ensure the accountability of the workers who provide these services, INEE facilitated a highly consultative process that engaged national authorities, practitioners, policy-makers, academics and other educators around the world in the development of the original Minimum Standards Handbook in 2003-2004: more than 2,250 people from over 50 countries participated in a series of regional workshops to develop, debate and agree on the standards. Building upon this collaborative experience, INEE conducted a similarly consultative update process in 2009-2010: more than 1,300 representatives of national authorities, international, national and local NGOs, UN agencies, academic and research institutions from 52 countries participated in the update process. The Standards are designed for use in emergency preparedness, response, and recovery and in humanitarian advocacy. They are applicable in a wide range of situations, including natural disasters and armed conflicts. The standards give guidance on how to prepare for and respond to acute emergencies in ways that reduce risk, improve future preparedness and lay a foundation for quality education. They provide flexibility in responding to needs at the most important level – the community – while providing a harmonized framework to coordinate the educational activities of national governments, other authorities, funding agencies, and national and international agencies.
INEE’s Minimum Standards were founded on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Dakar 2000 Education for All goals and the Sphere Project’s Humanitarian Charter. Like Sphere, the standards are meant to be used as a capacity-building and training tool. INEE believes that they will also enhance accountability and predictability among humanitarian actors, and improve coordination among partners, including education authorities.
An updated INEE Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery was launched in June 2010. The Handbook is designed to give governments and humanitarian workers the tools that they need to address the Education for All and UN Millennium Development Goals. It is the first step toward ensuring that education initiatives in emergency situations provide a solid and sound basis for post-conflict and disaster reconstruction. The Minimum Standards cover five domains:
Each section of the handbook describes a specific domain of educational work. However, each standard intersects with others in the handbook. Where appropriate, guidance notes identify important linkages to other relevant standards or guidance notes in other domains to provide a comprehensive view of quality education. In addition, cross-cutting issues, such as human and children’s rights, gender, the right of the population to participate, HIV/AIDS, disability and vulnerability, have been incorporated into the relevant standards.
Timeframe: The timeframe in which the Minimum Standards are used depends largely on the context. They are applicable in a wide range of emergency settings, from preparedness, to response, through to recovery, and may be used by a diverse audience. Key actions in this handbook are not universally applicable to every situation, nor to every potential user. It may take weeks, months or even years to achieve some of the standards and key actions specified. In some cases, the Minimum Standards and key actions may be achieved without the need for external assistance; in other cases it may be necessary for education authorities and agencies to collaborate to achieve them. When applying these standards, it is important that all relevant actors agree on a timeframe for implementation and for achieving results.
Scope and limitations: The standards in the different domains do not stand alone: they are interdependent. However, there is inevitably a tension between the formulation of universal standards and the ability to apply them in practice. Every context is different. For this reason, the global development process used to formulate the standards ensured a wide and broad-based participation of humanitarian workers, educators, governments, education authorities, civil society actors and affected people from different regional, country and local contexts. In some instances, local factors may make the realisation of the INEE Minimum Standards and key actions unattainable. When this is the case, the gap between the standards and actions listed in the handbook and the ones reached in actual practice must be described, and the reasons for the gap, and what needs to be changed in order to realise the standards, must be explained.
The INEE Minimum Standards will not solve all of the problems of educational response; however, they do offer a tool for humanitarian agencies, governments and local populations to enhance the effectiveness and quality of their educational assistance, and thus to make a significant difference in the lives of people affected by crisis or disaster. The INEE Minimum Standards handbook is the first step toward ensuring that education initiatives in emergency situations lay a solid and sound basis for post-conflict and disaster reconstruction.
Support: The standards development and implementation process has received financial support from the Academy for Educational Development and the Global Learning Portal, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the International Rescue Committee, the International Save the Children Alliance, Save the Children Norway, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), US contributions to UNESCO for the reconstruction of education systems in post-conflict countries, UNHCR, UNICEF, USAID, the US Contribution to UNESCO for Reconstruction of Education Systems, and the World Bank. In addition, hundreds of organizations have made enormous in-kind contributions to the process, through the commitment of staff time, travel, translations and other resources.
If you have any questions or would like to become involved in the process, please contact the INEE Coordinator for Minimum Standards: firstname.lastname@example.org