Read the following interesting interview of INEE: /INTER-AGENCY NETWORK for EDUCATION in EMERGENCIES/ with Corien Sips of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Hoping you will enjoy this interview, I would appreciate and expect your comment after your critical reading.
Corien Sips took a Master’s degree in Economics at the University of Amsterdam. Afterwards she worked as member of staff for the Dutch Trade Union Confederation and as senior researcher for the Institute for Research on Public Expenditure in The Hague. For the past fifteen years she has worked for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs as senior policy adviser, mainly in the field of education.
In this interview, Corien Sips, representative of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the INEE Working Group on Education and Fragility, speaks with Noëmi Gerber, INEE Programme Assistant, about the Ministry’s involvement in the field of education and fragility – specifically the partnership with UNICEF for the Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy Programme – as well as her views on where this field is heading, and what challenges lie ahead.
What activities related to education and fragility is the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs involved in?
The government of the Netherlands recently experienced a policy shift. In October 2010, a new cabinet came to power that decided that basic education is no longer a priority in itself, but should be positioned as an instrument for four new priorities, including security and rule of law. In practice, this meant the cabinet decided for budget cuts in the field of basic education, and focused the remaining part of the aid budget more towards the new priorities.
In my opinion this policy shift provided new opportunities. Take the example of our partnership with UNICEF: UNICEF also saw opportunities for them in this, such as working more with conflict analyses, and exploring the new and exciting field of conflict-sensitive education. Thus, we decided to focus the partnership on the contribution of education to furthering human security, and so the innovative Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy Programme was born. The interestingstudy of Mario Novelli and Alan Smith about Education and Peacebuilding was used as a building block for the new programme.
It will be exciting to see if it works, how it works, and where it works! The challenge is to really contribute to social transformation. What I hope will be particularly interesting are activities on how to cope with conflict at the micro level, for example with girls and duty bearers. If these individuals are trained in conflict resolution, one would expect that individual capacity in this respect would increase, which should contribute to the broader peacebuilding goal. Measuring impacts is another interesting aspect; UNICEF is still in the process of developing a results framework.
One exciting advantage to working with UNICEF over working bilaterally is that this programme is implemented partly in countries where we do not have an embassy. Thus, we have an opportunity to reach children we would not be able to reach otherwise.
The Ministry’s second main activity related to education and fragility is our participation in theGlobal Partnership for Education (GPE). One of the GPE’s three new objectives for 2011-2014 isincreasing support for fragile states. For us at the Ministry, this was an important reason to stay committed to the GPE. We hope some sort of synergy will come about between the UNICEF programme and the important work of the GPE. For instance, sector programs supported by the GPE could benefit from conflict analysis work done through the UNICEF programme.
Where do you think the field of education and fragility is heading?
I think much more attention will be paid to the prevention of conflict, as well as to increasing the relevance of education. Education’s intrinsic value will be overshadowed by the framing of education as a tool to reach other goals, for example to develop skills that are relevant for the labour market, for society, and for peacebuilding.
What do you think are some of the challenges ahead for the field?
Firstly, to improve education results in fragile states, because there is still much to improve. Additionally, from the donor perspective, I see that politicians in many countries want quick successes. But when working in fragile states and post-conflict countries, you don’t achieve results quickly, and you’re not always successful. Thus, this work is more difficult, and in a sense, more risky; but this also makes it more rewarding. Another challenge is that, if you work on prevention of conflict, it’s more difficult to measure success: It’s very difficult to prove that interventions in education translate into less conflict or more stability.
How can education be made a high priority for donors in humanitarian settings, not just in development settings?
This is very difficult I think, because in the short-term, some people still say that education is not life-saving like food or shelter. You need to keep convincing people that education is life-saving – perhaps not in the first week after a humanitarian crisis, but in the longer term; it gives people a perspective and opportunities. So, it’s very encouraging that the UNHCR has a new education strategy. It is also promising that the Global Partnership for Education recently showed much interest in the need for education during and shortly after a crisis. I think there is now a momentum for bringing the humanitarian world and the longer term development world together more.
How do you see the role of agencies like INEE, and particularly the Working Group (WG) on Education and Fragility, in the promotion of education in fragile settings?Education contributes as a soft tool to stability and peacebuilding. Yet ‘how’ to do conflict-sensitive education is still very abstract and unclear, so it is very helpful that the WG is now focused on conflict sensitivity in education, by developing tools and continuing this discussion. The WG’s strength is the fact that it is a network of experts who know what they are talking about, so it is in an excellent position to continue this much-needed discussion.
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