Collaboration is key: Lessons for child protection and education in emergencies

Published by
Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)
Written by
Mark Chapple
Published
Topic(s)
Humanitarian Sectors - Protection
Protection - Child Protection

If you were a child or a young person living in a refugee camp, in a conflict zone, or in community devastated by an earthquake or tropical storm, what would you want most in the world? 

For many of the children and young people we work with in crisis contexts, the answers are simple: they want to feel safe, to have shelter, food, and water, and they want to get back into the classroom.

Humanitarian agencies should make all efforts to listen to these voices of children and young people, to support them in a holistic manner, and to place their wellbeing at the centre of any response. To address the needs effectively requires us to work across the sector-specific ‘silos’ that divide the whole set-up of humanitarian responses, including within implementing partners, UN systems, and donors. 

The push for joint and integrated programming between child protection in humanitarian action (CPHA) and education in emergencies (EiE) is not new. Since INEE’s inception in 2000, there have been efforts to ensure that education in emergencies offers children protection and safety, as well as supporting cognitive and social development. Practitioners are aware that while classrooms can be places of sanctuary and healing, without training, support, and oversight, they can be a site of abuse and trauma. 

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INEE and The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (The Alliance) have come together to collaborate on a new Position Paper that summarises the evidence supporting collaboration and integration between the sectors, providing a rationale for cross-sector working that is grounded in child wellbeing and holistic development. The paper includes a summary of challenges and opportunities, and draws out clear recommendations charting the way forward for systematic and planned collaboration.

The paper is based on research undertaken throughout 2020, drawing on minimum standards, publications, guidelines and protocols stretching back 20 years, as well as interviews with a diverse group of current and former practitioners. It is heartening to see the level of goodwill and enthusiasm for cross-sector collaboration, and it is imperative that we harness that going forward. 

The key findings from the research show that joint and integrated programming can result in more efficient, better targeted, and more effective programmes that ultimately result in improved outcomes for children and young people. To realise this, the paper recommends that implementing agencies, networks, clusters, donors, and government ministries should design, implement, and invest in collaboration between CPHA and EiE. Alongside this, there should be investments in further analysis, evaluation, and research to increase the evidence of the value of joint and integrated programming, specifically in crisis-contexts. By further building the evidence of efficacy, INEE and the Alliance believe the case for collaboration can be strengthened and further encouraged. 

Another point that came out strongly in the research was the need to put the child firmly at the centre of programme design by having a focus on child wellbeing and healthy development within integrated programming. With this approach, both sectors can see how their interventions could impact on the development of the child and see how, by working together, the impact can be maximised. 

Additional recommendations call for the development of practical resources that would support cross-sector working. To address these, INEE and the Alliance have continued their collaboration through the CPHA-EiE initiative that bridges both networks and is overseen by an inter-agency Advisory Group. The project has already supported cross-sector work on Covid-19,  developed an annex to the Competency Frameworks of the two sectors, and produced an E-Learning module. A new forthcoming resource will be an operational framework or toolkit that systematises collaboration between the two sectors. This will be grounded in the Child Protection Minimum Standards and the INEE Minimum Standards, and will use a rights-based, wellbeing-focused approach that promotes healthy development.

By building on the work of the two networks and their members, the project aims to make joint and integrated programming the norm when working with children and young people in crisis contexts, ensuring they can develop and grow in nurturing, protective environments.

Mark Chapple is the Technical Focal Point, Collaboration Between Child Protection & Education in Emergencies. Contact him at mark.chapple@alliancecpha.org for more information on this paper and the CPHA-EiE Project.