RIO+20 – but where’s EDUCATION?

In June 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) will be held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. This conference represents 20 years since member states created and adopted Agenda 21: A Programme of Action for Sustainable Development

The Zero Draft for Rio +20 was created in January, and includes very little on education, despite the fact that education is often affected by natural hazards (floods, tsunami, tornadoes, etc.), and education can be a critical factor in mitigating both the impact of natural hazard and environmental degradation.


As a contribution to the sustainability agenda and the outcomes of the Rio +20 conference, INEE has issued a statement (full text below and online here) advocating for the inclusion of education in the final document. Please feel free to distribute and use this statement for advocacy. Comments and discussion about this statement can be shared on the INEE Blog.



Crisis sensitive education: from response to prevention

INEE Position Statement on Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development


The Rio 2012 Issues Brief No.8 on Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Building states that “environmental degradation and climate change contribute to the increasing occurrence of disasters linked to natural hazards”. It further explains that the level of vulnerability to disasters is closely and inversely related to levels of social and economic development. The Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) maintains that through the provision of crisis-sensitive education before, during and after emergencies, children and youth’s lives can be saved and the foundations for sustainable social and economic development of communities and countries can be restored.


Crisis-sensitive education saves lives and builds resilience in schools, communities, and societies to prevent and withstand the impacts of disaster. Crisis-sensitive education follows the ‘do no harm’ principle and addresses root causes of conflict and disaster, for instance through inclusive access to learning content that reduces risks and promotes peace and sustainable development.


INEE’s approach to crisis-sensitive education is in line with the strategic goals based on the Hyogo Framework, and outlined in the above mentioned Rio +20 Issues Brief No.8. From the integration of disaster risk reduction in education sector policies and plans (Strategic Goal 1), to the development and strengthening of education institutions, mechanisms and capacities to build resilience to hazards, (Strategic Goal 2), crisis-sensitive education is at the very heart of sustainable development and crisis prevention. Evidence from the US Geological Survey and the World Bank demonstrate that for every dollar invested in disaster risk reduction between $2-10 is saved in disaster response and recovery costs[1]. Until principles of conflict and disaster risk reduction are fully integrated, implemented and monitored in education sector policies and plans, efforts for sustainable development will continue to be compromised.


Education systems can educate citizens to be resilient to disasters, both in ensuring physical safety of children and in teaching and disseminating information on appropriate preparedness and response behavior. Children, youth and school communities are particularly vulnerable to the impact of natural disasters caused by climate change. For example, the 2008 earthquake in the Sichuan province of China took the lives of more than 10,000 children in their schools. The 2010 Haitian earthquake killed more than 4,000 children and 700 teachers, all of whom were teaching and learning in non-earthquake resistant buildings. These are shocking statistics, particularly when combined with the existing 175 million children likely to be affected by natural disasters over the next decade. Not only do these statistics illustrate that some of the current Millennium Development and Education for All Goals will not be reached, they also demonstrate that the post-2015 goals must explicitly address issues of education for sustainable development and conflict and disaster risk reduction.


Education also contributes to enabling people to escape poverty, build sustainable livelihoods, and act as responsible citizens. Equitable access to quality, relevant education in safe learning environments is a fundamental human right. However, access to school alone is not enough if girls and boys are not learning the skills to equip them for living and working in the 21st Century. Such skills not only include, literacy, numeracy, critical thinking, and problem solving, but also need to promote relevant knowledge in environmental and climate change; disaster risk reduction and preparedness; sustainable lifestyles and consumption; and green technical vocational education and training.


INEE also strives to support crisis-sensitive education during acute and chronic emergency situations. Despite offering both life-saving and long-term benefits to children and communities, education remains one of the least supported sectors in a humanitarian response. Yet education is typically one of the first priorities that children and parents consistently request during the early stages of disasters. One concrete framework for supporting education in such situations is through the use of the INEE Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery[2].


In order to raise the profile of education for sustainable development, INEE calls on actors at Rio +20 to:

  • Put education front and centre on the Sustainable Development Goals agenda as the mechanism for future leaders to internalize principles of sustainable development;
  • Focus on access + learning to ensure that next generation is equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to build sustainable 21st century lives and livelihoods;
  • Champion crisis-sensitive education content and systems, together with safe learning environments in order to address the particular challenges of natural and human-made conflicts and disasters; and
  • Integrate conflict and disaster risk reduction into education sector planning and programming, ensuring that funding is available to support education in emergencies.

[1] Red Cross (2007), Building safer, resilient communities

[2] This handbook provides guidance on how to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters in ways that reduce risk, improve future preparedness and lay a solid foundation for quality education,which incorporates cross-cutting issues such as conflict mitigation, Early Childhood Development, Gender, HIV and AIDs, Human Rights, Inclusive Education, Inter-sectoral linkages, Protection, Psychosocial support and youth engagement


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