by Mary Moran, Senior Program Specialist, Early Childhood Development
There is great energy here in New York United Nations and nongovernmental agency circles this week with the launch of new materials from the Interagency Network on Education in Emergencies.
Four new or revised publications are being released: “Minimum Standards Handbook,” “Pocket Guide to Gender,” “Reference Guide on External Education Financing” and “Guidance Notes on Teaching and Learning.” On hand for the launch were agency staff as well as UN representatives from developing countries.
ChildFund participated in the updating of the “Minimum Standards Handbook,” which provides benchmarks for accountability for quality education in emergency preparedness, response and recovery. ChildFund also co-convenes a task team that was instrumental in getting early childhood development (ECD) issues mainstreamed throughout the standards.
In New York, considerable discussion focused on the application of ECD standards in Haiti. Members of the audience raised questions about the extent of community involvement in ECD response following the earthquake six months ago. UNICEF and Plan representatives affirmed that communities were involved in choosing sites for ECD Centers and other safe havens for children. They acknowledged that interagency coordination was imperfect. The new standards position interagency coordination as a foundational cornerstone — absolutely crucial to agency preparedness and good response during emergencies.
At the launch, a number of workshops offered simulations and hands-on exercises employing the new materials including a case study of Iraq, gender-awareness issues among children and adults and emergency funding strategies.
Improving coordination among various agencies and partners, ensuring community participation, focusing on outcomes for children and increasing response quality were hot topics.
Although the new standards do not cover every aspect of emergencies as completely as desired, agency representatives applaud the new areas addressed within the standards, including ECD and gender topics.
Going forward, emergency coordination among all sectors needs more emphasis. Yet, in the field, things need to be short and concise to be useful.