The No Lost Generation World Refugee Day webinar, hosted by the No Lost Generation (NLG) Initiative and NetHope’s NLG Tech Task Force, is the fifth in the NLG Tech Task Force series that is currently focused on youth education, skills-training, and livelihoods.
The webinar was hosted by Leila Toplic of the NLG Tech Task Force and provided an overview of the NLG Initiative, its commitment to use technology to address the needs of refugee children and youth, as well as the challenges that refugee youth face and the opportunities for the broader community to work together to help.
Toplic set the tone for the one-hour session by providing an overview of the refugee crisis around the world, 65.6 million people have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. Only half of those children have access to primary education compared to the global average of 90 percent. The gap only continues to widen as they reach the age for secondary school, and then again for university age youth. While this is not a new issue, the magnitude and complexity of the Syrian crisis has brought the concern for refugees to the forefront.
Toplic’s guests included Katy Barnett, the No Lost Generation Advisor at the UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa; Mark Chapple, Head of No Lost Generation, World Vision Regional Syria Response; and Veera Mendonca, Regional Advisor, Adolescent Development and HIV/AIDS, UNICEF.
Barnett began by explaining that the No Lost Generation (NLG) Initiative that serves Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq was formed in 2013 by a group of humanitarian activists and donors in response to the Syrian crisis. These key players recognized that doing things better, and differently, was necessary to meet the extremely urgent needs of the children caught up in the tragedy. Barnett said, “We would have missed an opportunity if we didn’t strategically invest in some key areas that are not normally seen as lifesaving and are not normally front-loaded in emergency response.” Such thinking led to NLG’s focus on three pillars: education, child protection, and adolescents and youth.
The pillars reflect the needs of children and young people more broadly than just education and child protection. “If you are trying to get children out of being recruited by armed forces and armed groups, and if you’re trying to get them out of child labor, then you need to invest both in child protection and education and you need to make sure that the positive engagement opportunities are available to adolescents and youth as they go along,” explained Barnett.
Refugees who are currently settled in countries surrounding Syria are covered by the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP), and have, managed to escape the extremely high levels of risk they were facing in their countries of origin. However, they face a whole new set of challenges when they arrive in their country of asylum, including decimation of their livelihoods and savings, child marriage, child labor, access to education, and family separation.
The NLG partnership organizations involved in implementing programs in the six countries include a variety of actors from national NGOs to small, local community groups that have the expertise and knowledge relating to the people in the immediate area. However, no matter the size of the organization, they are all guided by the humanitarian response plans that are key documents and reference points for each country to guide the response.
“It’s no longer an ad-hoc charity-driven enterprise. It’s much more of a well-thought-through evidence-based response that’s agreed upon across the board and that’s very transparently available,” said Barnett. She continued by saying, “It’s an important point to make because in setting up an initiative like NLG, we need to be as clear and as light as possible. You’ll find all the child protection, education, adolescent, and youth programs that we’re advocating for included in these humanitarian plans.”
In addition to amplifying and conveying the voices of youth, the NLG Initiative has contributed to other positive outcomes. Sectors which are normally underfunded, including child protection and education, are better resourced in this response, and Barnett hopes that it is partly a result of the efforts at NLG.
The initiative also created a forum for intelligent, exciting conversations with the private and tech sectors at the NLG Ed Tech summit held in March 2017 in Amman, Jordan, which had more than 200 attendees. The popular event, championed and led by World Vision but open to all the NLG partners, brought concerned parties together to network, collaborate, and co-design interventions and innovations that support children and youth affected by the Syrian crisis.
According to Chapple, one of the most exciting components of the summit was drawing interest from donors to sponsor a number of proposals that were developed at the event. Participants were encouraged form partnerships, develop plans that lined up with the call for proposals, and compete for seed funding from the various donors that committed funds to the event. Winners have been announced on the NLG EdTech Summit website. Chapple said, “We took the startup, hackathon, incubator mentality and applied that to the humanitarian sector and it was received very well.”
The collaboration and the partnership portion of the event was incredibly successful, but as for evidence building, there is still some way to go. “In some way that’s a call to arms for the people listening – the tech sector in particular,” Chapple said. “How can we get better at developing an evidence base behind innovations to show their impact on children and show that they are working?”
A follow-up event in Jordan is being planned for early next year, and a September event in Silicon Valley will include the U.S. technology firms that were unable to travel to Jordan but are interested in getting involved.
Toplic circled back to note that the NLG Tech Task Force was launched at the EdTech Summit and focuses on connecting private sector resources and expertise, including technology, with the needs of refugee children and youth by facilitating cross-sector information sharing. Membership is open to global and local NGOs, private sector companies, academic institutions and host governments.
Photo credit: Adam Patterson/Panos/DFID
Veera Mendonca shared pre-recorded video that featured the stories of three young people who had taken advantage of the opportunities available to them to identify issues of concern and to create programs of their own to address those issues. One has started a vehicle maintenance and training center for new graduates, another works with UNICEF in participatory action research. The young people came from vulnerable situations, and some of them work long hours for roughly 12 dollars a day or less, but still find ways to cultivate meaningful work for themselves and their communities.
From their stories, Mendonca concluded that having a space at the table for the youth who are impacted by the crisis is critical to a program’s success, even though partnering with the most vulnerable young people my take work. “When we did the mapping analysis for the adolescent and youth programs, we found that less than 20 percent of the programs provide that space,” she said. “If we can engage these young people, we can actually break that vicious cycle of poverty, so a clear ask is to partner with young people at all stages of programming.”
In addition to allowing for refugee input, Mendoca said the expansion of financial support is a crosscutting issue and is at the crux of the impact seen with refugee youth and with the most vulnerable young people. She would also like to see pathways open for inclusion, more opportunities to gain relevant job experience, alternative career opportunities – especially for girls and refugees, better access to quality education, technical support, and the expansion of innovative solutions by and for young people.
Mendoca said that despite having been displaced in many situations, the young people come up with amazing ideas and she is amazed by how positive and resilient they are. However, without support, they will come up against barriers, and this happens all too often.
To access the in-depth presentation, collateral material, and watch the No Lost Generation World Refugee Day webinar recording that includes an extensive Q&A session not covered in this recap, visit the webinar landing page.
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To access past webinars, and their recap bog posts, visit NetHope’s NLG Tech Task Force page for links to those and more resources.
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Yasmin Al Assi, a young entrepreneur from Deir Ez-Zor living in Damascus. Her project focuses on providing education to children who are out of school due to the war. Lessons in Arabic, English, and Math will be given through an interactive curriculum.
Batool Zahra, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee from Homs living in Jordan: Participatory Action Research is an approach to build capacities of the most marginalized young people to conduct research, act on the findings, and engage in UNICEF and partner supported programs. 121 young researchers in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria conducted research with 985 peers.
George Khowry, 24 years old, engineer. His project is to establish a car maintenance and training center for newly graduated engineers.