Today, in camps and host communities across Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, five year-old children are living the only life they have ever known — as refugees outside Syria’s borders, while war rages on in their home country.
In Dadaab, Kenya, the world’s largest refugee camp, young women, whose families fled Somalia before they could walk, have grown up in tents without electricity or running water and are now raising children of their own.
21.3 million people are refugees today, more than at any point in recent history; and conflicts last longer, with refugees spending an average of nearly 20 years in exile. Children under 18 now make up more than 50% of all refugees.
In the midst of this crisis, prime ministers and presidents will gather for their annual meeting in September. Faced with escalating conflicts and protracted crises, they have chosen “survival” as their theme for refugee discussions this year.
Away from the cameras, in refugee camps and roadways, on beaches and in boats around the globe, the world’s refugee children are hoping for more than survival.
How long can a refugee girl be out of school before she is forced into an early marriage or child labor? How long should children wait for education that can help build a better life for themselves and their countries? How long can communities endure an uncertain future with no hope of self-determination?
Temporary solutions are no longer an option. As this paper shows, world leaders risk exacerbating violent conflict and instability by failing to develop a longer-term vision for refugee response.
Education is not a silver bullet for stopping conflict, but sustainable peace, prosperity and stability cannot be built without it. Where there are large inequalities in accessing education, the probability of conflict increases.
We have seen this same moment come and go many times before — a summit, a meeting, decisions made, money pledged. But when the cameras are packed up and the lights turned off, the world does not deliver for refugee children.
Malala Fund’s new paper — #YesAllGirls: Education and the Global Refugee Response — gives recommendations for a better outcome this September. We urge world leaders to give serious consideration to long-term consequences of short-term solutions.