Panel Session Examines Climate Displacement & Access to Education in Asia-Pacific

On 21 April, 2022 UNU-IAS co-organised a session at the 66th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES 2022).

The panel session discussed access to education and lifelong learning for climate displaced persons in Asia-Pacific. The session explored the results of a regional study that examined the impact of climate displacement on the right to education, as part of a global UNESCO initiative.

In opening remarks Faryal Khan (Programme Specialist, UNESCO) highlighted that more people fled their homes due to climate events than violent conflicts, yet climate displaced persons often lacked access to basic services such as education and health care. She pointed out that learning disruption deprived the already vulnerable climate displaced persons of a means to accelerate their social integration and the long-term recovery of their country. Dr Khan explained that the UNESCO initiative aimed to investigate the barriers to the right to education brought on by climate change to ultimately improve the preparedness of states to ensure the inclusion of all displaced persons in quality education.

Fumiko Noguchi (Research Fellow, UNU-IAS) presented a case study from India, where climate change displaced learners face numerous challenges, including frequent relocation, increased economic volatility, inaccessibility of learning resources, and destruction of school infrastructure. Dr Noguchi stressed that although interventions had been made by various local governments, teachers, and NGOs, there was an urgent need for vertical and horizontal coordination of educational policies and practices to address the needs of climate displaced persons.

Jonghwi Park (Academic Programmer Officer, UNU-IAS) provided an overview of a case study from Indonesia, which has made considerable progress in improving inclusive access to education but has yet to overcome the challenge of disparities in learning outcomes between urban and rural areas, as well as completion rates of secondary schools. Dr Park emphasised that enhancing the resilience of the educational system and ensuring learning continuity among climate displaced children, youth, and adults were of paramount importance, particularly for learners who were already vulnerable such as girls, women, indigenous people, and secondary youth.

Ying Syuan Huang (Research Fellow, UNU-IAS) discussed research findings from Viet Nam and identified several challenges to timely and quality educational support for the country’s climate displaced persons. These include a reliance on international donations and international NGOs for reconstruction efforts, and a lack of capacity to accommodate displaced persons due to rising demands and continuing migration flows. Dr Huang highlighted the need to strengthen the adaptive capacity of the education system in response to climate change, pointing out that the education sector should be involved in both disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

Philip Vaughter (Consultant, UNU-IAS) presented the results of a case study from Tuvalu, a Small Island Developing State (SIDS). He noted that the biggest migration trend in the country was not international migration but urbanisation. Dr Vaughter explained that while Tuvalu had a well-developed school system designed to withstand tropical storms and country-wide IT connections for online learning, one of the principal barriers to education was a lack of infrastructure due to the extremely rapid urbanisation – part of which was driven by climate change. He concluded that climate-smart city planning was essential to ensure access to education for all residents.

Rolla Moumné (Programme Specialist, UNESCO) moderated the panel discussion and Q&A, focusing on how the case studies informed global perspectives.

In closing, Dr Khan remarked that consensus building among stakeholders was an important next step, and that the case studies presented would contribute to global efforts to address the issue.

The event was organised in partnership with UNESCO.

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