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Background paper: Coordination between Humanitarian and Development Work in the Education Sector: Working Together in a Crisis Context
Place of publication | Year of publication | Collation: 
New York | 2021 | 46 p.
Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies
Corporate author: 
Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies

The education sector is charged with a responsibility to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, per Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4). The current trend of complex and longer-term crises, whether caused by the climate emergency, violent conflict, or a pandemic, threatens progress toward SDG4 targets. As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, no country or education system is immune from crisis; therefore, building resilience is the key not only to avoiding losses but to sustaining and progressing toward our shared goals in the education sector. Collective action is needed across the humanitarian-development spectrum to build inclusive and adaptable education systems that are prepared for and have the capacity to respond to crises, so that every child and young person has a chance to go to school, stay in school, and complete a full cycle of primary and secondary education.

This report is aimed at members of the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), which includes a broad range of humanitarian, development, government, and civil society actors who are working to ensure that all individuals have the right to a quality, safe, relevant, and equitable education. The purpose of the report is to demystify the concept of humanitarian-development coherence and to propose a set of actions and recommendations to strengthen such coherence in the education sector. The report also provides guidelines for INEE members and education stakeholders to take collective action, and to advocate for improved coherence within their own agencies and across the education sector’s full spectrum of policy and programming.

This report recapitulates the concept of humanitarian-development coherence and why it is critical, provides an overview of barriers to coherence in the education sector, identifies illustrative examples of coherent action, and offers concrete recommendations for improved coherence, as summed up through a “Learn-Convene-Adapt” framework.

To explain the concept of humanitarian-development coherence, this paper adopts the New Ways of Working definition, which describes humanitarian-development coherence as working over multiple years toward collective outcomes, based on the comparative advantage of a diverse range of actors (see definitions, p. 6). The paper argues that humanitarian-development coherence is critical to ensuring that all children have access to uninterrupted quality education, which promotes their increased resilience and overall development. While education can provide significant benefits for individuals, communities, and countries, establishing resilient education systems requires multi-year planning, coordination, and investment in the education sector.

To unpack the bottlenecks to coherence in education, the paper uses the conceptual framework proposed in the USAID white paper, Education and Humanitarian-Development Coherence (Nicolai et al., 2019). This framework outlines three levels of action that influence conditions for coherence: Norms, Capacities, and Operations. The barriers identified and explored in the paper are the following:

Resource Type: 
Declarations, statements and normative instruments
Human rights / Human dignity
Peace / Culture of peace
Social justice / Equity
Level of education: 
Non-formal education


Education in emergencies