Education and Humanitarian-Development Coherence
Coherent approaches to international aid are particularly important for the education sector in crisis-affected contexts.
Since the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), humanitarian-development coherence has been elevated as a policy priority, both globally and for the U.S. government. Coherent approaches to international aid are particularly important for the education sector in crisis-affected contexts because a quality, equitable education delivers essential learning outcomes, while also having the potential to provide emotional and physical protection, support individual and community resilience and contribute to stabilization. Despite its potential, national governments often struggle to cope with education provision during and after crises. At the same time, the disconnect in humanitarian and development action leads to losses in effectiveness of international aid.
This white paper provides an overview of humanitarian-development coherence efforts within the education sector globally, with a focus on the U.S. government. It presents a conceptual framework that outlines both the drivers of the humanitarian-development divide and the opportunities for coherence, and then uses this framework to structure the mapping and analysis of U.S. government efforts on education and humanitarian-development coherence. The methodology for the paper included a background literature review; interviews with some 20 global, regional and country-level U.S. government staff members between December 2017 and March 2018; and an iterative process of development of the conceptual framework.
The USAID Education in Crisis and Conflict Network commissioned this white paper. Its intended audience is U.S. government staff, including staff in the following operational units:
- USAID missions, regional bureaus, pillar bureaus, Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI)
- U.S. Department of State’s (DOS’s) Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and partners
However, the conceptual framework may also be of interest and could be applied to external agencies working in education across humanitarian and development contexts.
Operationalizing Humanitarian-Development Coherence
Approaches to humanitarian-development coherence and associated terminology have evolved over time, from an initial concept of a linear continuum to a recognition of greater complexity. This evolution is reflected in global commitments, international frameworks and guidelines. Most recently, discussions leading up to the SDGs and the WHS have resulted in an increased focus on coherence.
The concept of collective outcomes is central to current thinking about humanitarian-development coherence. The education sector has the potential to contribute to collective outcomes by providing protection (in times of higher risks and vulnerability), promoting well-being and ensuring that children and young people learn basic skills. In conflict-affected and fragile contexts, education programs can be leveraged to contribute to conflict mitigation, peacebuilding and security.
Education also plays a crucial role in strengthening individual and community resilience. Resilient communities particularly need two types of capacities—adaptive capacity and the ability to address and reduce risk—and education can contribute to both. In both emergencies and protracted crises, schools can offer a multi-sectoral community platform that enhances localized preparedness, response, and recovery.
The alignment or coordination of humanitarian and development interventions to deliver collective outcomes effectively can take different forms, with the ideas of sequencing, layering, complementarity, pivoting and differentiation all proving useful in framing their operational intersections. Resilience, a growing area of policy and practice for U.S. government agencies across sectors, is also a useful framework for linking humanitarian and development actions. Building resilience capacities puts people and communities at the center because it is about strengthening their ability to withstand and recover from shocks. Humanitarian-development coherence contributes to this and necessitates a systems approach, with analysis and action that seeks to bring together different actors, frameworks, plans and budgets.
Collective outcomes are a key component of the New Way of Working (NWOW). The NWOW was signed at the WHS as part of the Commitment to Action. This UN-led effort is supported by a wide range of humanitarian actors and aims not only to meet humanitarian needs, but also to reduce needs, risks and vulnerability. Other elements of the NWOW include the following:
- Common context and risk analyses to create a shared understanding of the context across humanitarian, development, political and security actors
- A diverse range of partners working collaboratively based on their comparative advantage
- Multi-year time frame for analyzing, strategizing, planning and financing operations
It is helpful to consider additional elements to ensure that the NWOW is a comprehensive approach to coherence. For example, USAID’s work on building resilience identifies three critical elements that are complimentary to the NWOW: (1) leadership; (2) monitoring, feedback, and lesson learning, and (3) emergency preparedness, prevention and risk reduction.
There is evidence that education can be indispensable for achieving collective outcomes by addressing a range of issues across health, water, nutrition, protection and livelihoods. The U.S. government supports the principles of the NWOW and is working with a range of international actors to develop guidance on how to advance the NWOW and achieve concrete outcomes in country responses through joint analysis, planning and implementation arrangements.
A Conceptual Framework for Mapping U.S. Government Efforts on Education Coherence
As noted earlier, this paper presents a conceptual framework that highlights both the drivers of the humanitarian-development divide and the opportunities to overcome these within the education sector. The framework has three layers:
- Norms: This layer looks at what guides education responses in crisis contexts. It shapes and defines humanitarian and development assistance and may include elements such as principles, goals, standards, mandates, strategies and expected outcomes.
- Capacities: This layer focuses on who leads and coordinates support to education, which might include key actors, coordination groups and staff knowledge and skills.
- Operations: This layer considers how education programs are planned and provided. It includes delivery of aid and the functions that make these education programs possible, including approaches to education, assessment processes, planning, finance and monitoring.
Several U.S. government agencies and offices play a role in funding education in crisis contexts, but this paper reviews four key entities: USAID’s Office of Education, OFDA, and OTI and DOS’s PRM. Each agency has a specific mandate in addressing education that contributes to humanitarian and development coherence. The main findings are summarized below.
The USAID Education Strategy 2011–2015 and its targeted goal on education in crisis and conflict was a significant step toward achieving coherence. Currently, at the country level, an increasing U.S. government-wide focus on resilience and self-reliance is encouraging strategies based more on integrated outcomes that should increase coherence. Based on their mandates, different U.S. government agencies fund education in different geographic areas or for different populations. However, while these responses might be complementary, there is still a need for better guidance to ensure coherence. Framing education as an intervention that can contribute to dual outcomes of protection and learning could help reduce confusion, aid communication (particularly regarding the extent to which financing education in the first phase of an emergency response is a priority) and make coordination and coherence more likely.
Country-level interviews highlighted the importance of national leadership for a strong and coherent education response. Interagency coordination also plays an important role in education coherence, with the U.S. government often being an influential voice in, and support to, these efforts. Within the U.S. government, coordination mechanisms tend to be information-sharing exercises with little action on education coherence, often due to different funding mechanisms, timelines and objectives. OFDA provides humanitarian surge capacity in acute crises that focuses on child protection and restarting children’s access to schooling in support of the safety and well-being of children. However, OFDA does not fund longer-term education programming with explicit learning outcomes nor does it have the staffing capacity to support such programs. PRM provides in-country support through regional refugee coordinators with technical expertise based in Washington D.C. USAID missions provide development assistance in country in a decentralized manner, and approximately 44 USAID missions have education programs. USAID missions may or may not have education staff with emergency-specific training or experience.
USAID missions can access technical support from USAID/Washington regional and pillar bureaus, which includes staff with expertise in education in crisis and conflict. While USAID’s education technical backstopping and informal networks are strong, formalized knowledge management on coherence is weak. Taken together, opportunities for coherent action can be missed. While beneficiary communities may not distinguish between humanitarian and development needs, their capacities and priorities do change in crisis contexts. The implications of this shift for education and coherence in the sector needs to be better understood.
Although USAID’s new Rapid Education and Risk Analysis is a useful tool, currently, there is a lack of comprehensive education assessments in the U.S. government to support coherent programming. Similarly, the mapping identified a lack of coherent planning, with examples of a proliferation of plans in some contexts and a dearth in others. This can undermine education coherence. Flexible planning, funding and programming are essential in crisis contexts, and the mapping identified examples where U.S. government field staff had made shifts in programming on the ground in response to changes in context, based on their initiative and knowledge base. The mapping also found that using shock-responsive programming and building contingency plans into development awards could provide greater flexibility in funding for education. However, a lack of clarity about rules and procedures can mean that staff members accept a “rule” that restricts flexibility without realizing that it is a procedure that could be changed. This risks reducing flexibility in how funds may be used to support education. Other issues that influence the coherence of education programming are implementing partners and knowledge management. Different U.S. government entities tend to have different implementing partners, which can lead to a disconnected programmatic response. Joint investment in partners that implement both humanitarian and development programs may help further coherence.
Based on the findings presented above, the paper makes the following recommendations to the U.S. government:
- Strengthen high-level U.S. government support for education in emergencies and protracted crises.
- Ensure that the 2018 government-wide U.S. Strategy on International Basic Education and the USAID Education Policy include coherent approaches across humanitarian and development contexts.
- Champion education’s contributions to collective outcomes.
- Leverage the USAID Education in Crisis and Conflict Learning Agenda.
- Invest in understanding and defining links between education and resilience.
- Develop tools, capacity, and processes to address U.S. government humanitarian-development coherence related to:
- Strengthening knowledge management
- Building in specialized education surge capacity before and during crises
- Ensuring education sector assessments have approaches to coherence in the collection and analysis of primary and secondary data
- Funding mechanisms that offer flexibility, pivoting and contingencies
- Provide interagency leadership for the education sector in strengthening humanitarian-development coherence.
This white paper was prepared for USAID's E3/ED Building Evidence and Capacity to Increase Equitable Access to Education in Crisis and Conflict-Affected Environments Contract to support the Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment by Education Development Center, Inc. and Overseas Development Institute (ODI). The contents are the responsibility of ODI and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.