In some parts of the world, it is still not a given that every child has the right to education. Despite important gains over the last few years, tens of millions of children are still denied their simple right to go to school. Depriving children of that basic right is one of the surest ways of transferring poverty from one generation to another. Yet we have the power to change that.Later this month, world leaders will meet in Turkey to renew their vows in preventing and reducing human suffering. One of the themes at the international summit, to invest in humanity, is a call for change in how the international community addresses humanitarian needs. Prioritizing education in emergencies – a global objective of the United Nation’s Children’s Fund – will be a recurring theme.
Anyone who believes that it is simply money or technology that distinguishes success from failure in humanitarian response today should think again. It is our commitment, capacity and will to put people first. Technological innovation alone will never reduce poverty or inequalities. Machines will not improve social and economic conditions for the most excluded. A successful economy is not the one that just builds bridges, roads and office blocks, but one that also upholds all its citizens. Investing in human capital is the vital key, particularly in countries where socioeconomic inequalities are often great. Only then, when technology and innovation go hand in hand with human investment, do we see lasting, inclusive results.
Lifting people will fuel generations to come. That is why it’s time to find new ways to leverage resources for crisis response, including harnessing the private sector and faith-based organizations at local, regional and global levels, while investing in innovation. It is time to start investing not only in services but in children, youth and adults, in the systems we live in. In communities and social constructs, in the environment.
Ask yourself: What is a human right in times of conflict? What is key to promoting equity? What has the power of breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty and deprivation, and create opportunities and ignite hope? Education has that power. Imagine a refugee in Lebanon, a Syrian child. To that child, education is a promise of a future. It keeps the child off the street, protecting it from abuse and exploitation, and provides it with the tools to build a life of dignity.
By investing in education, children become healthier and happier adults, have healthier children themselves and are able to find or create better jobs, and can contribute to their own humanity. By encouraging small businesses and creating employment, we help create future growth within communities. By generating an income, people improve local and national economies. By investing in health systems we ensure that people are healthier and more productive. By protecting the environment, we decrease the impact of climate change that triggers humanitarian crisis in the first place. By building new technologies, we develop early warning systems that prevent human suffering.
What does all of this require? Political will. Institutional and financial investments. The buy-in of businessmen and women, willing to make the world a fairer one – for everyone. Investing in humanity, simply by educating a child, whatever it takes, is in everyone’s interest. By investing in humanity, we take on the shared responsibility that we have been given. Education is the key.
Tanya Chapuisat is the UNICEF Representative in Lebanon.