Private Engagement in Education in Emergencies: Rights and Regulations

Education in Emergencies

Private Engagement in Education in Emergencies: Rights and Regulations
Advocacy Brief – INEE
Dr Francine Menashy and Dr Zeena Zakharia.
Published 10 March 2021 :: 25 pages
The Challenge
Efforts to secure inclusive and equitable education for all have prompted calls for greater engagement by the private sector, asserting that businesses and foundations can play significant roles as partners in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4).

In recent years, given shortfalls in public financing and the need for urgent responses, private actors have increasingly become involved in various aspects of educational programming for education in emergencies (EiE). The arrangement, however, can produce tensions between private engagement and humanitarian response in education, which needs to be addressed and in turn requires extra coordination, advocacy and attention. This brief explores some of these tensions and makes recommendations to support the prioritization of safe, equitable, and quality public education for all children and young people affected by crises.

INEE supports every young person’s right to education and recognizes the State as the primary duty-bearer of schooling, in alignment with international declarations, frameworks, and legal instruments that assert and protect the right to education.

Legal instruments that protect the right to education
These include:
:: Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948),
:: Fourth Geneva Convention (1949),
:: Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951),
:: UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960),
:: International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965),
:: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966),
:: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979),
:: Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989),
:: Jomtien Declaration (1990),
:: World Education Forum Framework for Action (2000),
:: Millennium Development Goals (2000),
:: Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006),
:: UN General Assembly Resolution on the Right to Education in Emergency Situations (2010),
:: 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (2015), and
:: the Abidjan Principles (2019),
in addition to numerous regional human rights treaties and national legal commitments.

Key Recommendations for Private Sector Participation in EiE
:: Prioritize the “do no harm” principle of humanitarianism. All private sector activities in EiE must adhere to the “do no harm” principle and ensure the educational rights of affected populations.

:: Prioritize the participation of affected communities. Without active com¬munity input, business-supported interventions risk decontextualized design and implementation that are misaligned with local interests and knowledge systems, leading to poor educational results and potentially discriminatory practices that produce, sustain, or exacerbate conflict.

:: Support the long-term sustainability of public education. Effective private sector involvement in EiE requires a sustained and ongoing commitment to public education.

:: Regulate private sector activities. Private actors involved in education in emergencies must be regulated by the State and held to the same account¬ability principles as other non-governmental actors and state agencies/entities, in line with legally binding international human rights standards to ensure quality, equity, and access, especially with regard to learners and families affected by crisis.

:: Promote transparency in profit-seeking activities. Transparency regarding conditions of funding and profit-seeking activities, such as creating new mar¬kets for products, brand association and product testing, may help to identify conflicts of interest that counter the “do no harm” principle.

:: Ensure that private funding to EiE is transparent, equitable, and harmo¬nized. Private financing for EiE must not undermine the responsibility of the State to provide free quality education to all children and young people.

:: Develop specific guidance on private participation in EiE. Given the unique issues relating to private sector participation in EiE, an addition to the Abi¬djan Principles (see below) that directly addresses these issues would help clarify expectations for State and private sector responses and intervention in such situations.