Is the Arab League failing its future leaders?

The Arab League Summit held in Mauritania last week saw key Arab leaders noticeably absent from the talks. The League, which has 22 member states, was set up in 1945 and from a theoretical standpoint, has the ability to act as the European Union of the region.

But the talks last week highlighted the League’s failure at addressing the long-term future of the member states. Although security issues dominated the talks, what is arguably one of the most potent security concerns for the future of the region was mostly neglected: the education of refugees.

The region has historically faced a lot of struggles when it comes to refugees, the most recent of which is the refugee crisis bubbling out of Syria. According to Amnesty International, as of 2015, more than 4 million refugees have come out of Syria since the crisis erupted five years ago. More than 60 percent of the refugees from the Syrian crisis are under the age of 18 – this means that in 30 years’ time, it is likely that one of these refugees will be representing their countries at the Arab League, and all over the world.

The way things are going, young Syrians will not have the opportunity to represent themselves, their country, their needs, or their rights as the refugee crisis has turned into an education crisis. More than 1 million of these child refugees are currently out of school and other forms of education due to a $1 billion gap in funding.

Lack of transparency, lack of funds – what is new?

A report released by international children's charity Theirworld focusing on the (lack of) education of child refugees focused on the lack of transparency in identifying the amount of money that has gone directly to education and educational establishments to aid refugees.

The report focuses on pledges made at the London Summit hosted in February 2016. Of the pledges made in February, 94 percent of the conference donors had allegedly not committed to their pledges by May.

The Arab League, the wider international diplomatic community and aid organizations must not treat the refugee education crisis like their personal student loan, paying installments and interest whenever they deem necessary

Yara al-Wazir

Lack of education is a risky business

Lack of education is a risky business. The absence of provisions to ensure young refugees are educated is a massive risk the host countries are taking. When children are in vulnerable situations, they are prime targets and can easily fall into a dangerous cycle of child labour, early marriage and – in more extreme case - young uneducated children are vulnerable to growing up to become young uneducated vulnerable adults: the prime recipe for extremist recruiting.

The World Health Organization highlights the physiological hazards associated with child labour as children are often unaware of the toxicity and danger of the materials they work with.

Host countries are not solely responsible for solving this crisis, if it was, then what is the point of larger organizations, or a group like the Arab League?

Before it is too late

The Arab League, the wider international diplomatic community and aid organizations must not treat the refugee education crisis like their personal student loan, paying installments and interest whenever they deem necessary.

The crisis is not going away any time soon, and action should have been taken five years ago. Although a number of countries, including Lebanon, have ambitious plans to ensure every Syrian child is registered in a school, these plans must be stewarded in order to achieve the results.

As well as educating the Syrian children living in refugee camps, we must remember that first and foremost, these are innocent, traumatized youth who have already been through more hardships than many adults have been through in a lifetime. Teachers need adequate training on dealing with children who come from emotionally traumatized backgrounds.

Many schools in Lebanon run on double shifts, with evening and morning classes – more countries must follow suit. Organizers of refugee camps need to accommodate more schools, more teachers, and make a stronger effort to make the future of the region the focus of their development plans.

The talks at the last Arab League Summit may have underestimated the severity of the crisis by avoiding issuing a specific statement regarding the situation, but there is no need to wait for these talks to plan for the future - the future of young refugee children is in jeopardy. Additional talks must be held and funds must be allocated ahead of the next school year beginning September.

Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47
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