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Narcissism and Triangulation in Psychology and GeoPolitics

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“… there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”–William Shakespeare

[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] L [/yt_dropcap]ately, in the world of intelligence and geopolitics, there is much talk about triangulation, what used to go by the name of Finlandization, now considered an obscene word in the world of diplomacy. “Velvet occupation” seems to be preferred.

In any case the terms refer to the majority of the world’s nations which, being surrounded by much vaster and more powerful countries play both sides of the game attempting to get concessions from both sides of the competition. I suppose, the strategy has been around from time immemorial, since the game of “might makes right” began to be played on the world stage.

Less well known is the fact that the phenomenon of triangulation is even more familiar in the field of psychology and literature, and that moreover, a literary master such as William Shakespeare adopted it in quite a few of his dramas.

As the word triangulation amply suggests, triangles in the early days of modern psychology theories were illustrative of toxic relationship. Not surprisingly, the way to heal those kinds of relationships started taking on a triangular shape as well. Let’s briefly explore what psychological triangulation is all about. It may end up shedding some light on geo-political triangulation as well.

triangulation

Karpman’s Triangle. The one on the Right shows how to reverse the Negative Trend

Basically the definition of triangulation is about talking about one person to another person so as to keep from directly communicating to the person you are talking about. Usually this kind of communication is an expressed dissatisfaction with the main party who is not addressed directly. Within traditional Irish culture, the worst form of insult is to refuse to talk directly to one’s interlocutor and use the third pronoun “he” or “she” instead of “you.”

This happens often in academia in reviews of books, dissertations, treatises, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Academic careers have been destroyed by innuendos and assumptions never directly and publicly expressed and elucidated. It is a rather surreptitious mode of smearing a reputation and sway others against him/her.

This is how it works: one person sits in the middle and controls information flow between others. He/she becomes the arbiter of information: he/she tells people what he/she wants them to hear and does his/her best to prevent others from openly talking to each other and compare notes. Basically he/she becomes a conduit between parties, in the process he/she is free to remove stuff he/she does not like, twist, even fabricate the information if need be. Thus the correspondents will form opinions and mirror those of the fabricator. Once they have taken the bait, they may never know what exactly is going on. If in this context Wikileak jumps to mind. Well it should.

How does this phenomenon of triangulation function in a dysfunctional family with a narcissist as its head? In this kind of family the assumptions of how normal people think and feel will be mostly inaccurate. This is because the head narcissist does things that the rest of us would never contemplate doing. Things like damaging others’ good name or reputation out of spite or jealousy or simply to display his “brilliance” or arrogant power. As the saying goes “tell a lie often enough and people will begin to accept it.” Feed the misinformation long enough to lots of people and they’ll be indoctrinated and accept the information as the truth.

The illustrated triangles above, perhaps the best known in psychology (with emotions well identified) may furnish a better idea of how the game is played. They clearly show how each party uses negative emotions to create a situation with no resolution, a catch-22, switching roles and a thankless, pointless nonsensical cycle. The last one shows how to get out of the Karpman’s triangle to recover one’s mental health.

For that to occur there must first be an agreement between all three people to stop trying to manipulate and blame each other. They have to agree that the status of the unhappy relationship takes two people, not three, and the only way to resolve it is to recognize one’s own part in the conflict.

The problem is that persecutors have to be right at all cost. It’s their way or the highway. To get their way they use anger and intimidation and, when necessary to ensure compliance, guilt and shame.

Victims can operate on the premise that “you have no integrity; I have the integrity.” They are often too committed to pleasing others, can have poor boundaries, can be too eager to forgive and be self effacing, and try to control their own negative emotions (like anger) to always appear perfect, without reproach. They expect to be loved based on their integrity alone. They often use tears to get their way. The 3 people can be, and often are, in interchangeable roles: with the victim acting like a perpetrator to get the original perpetrator to change his rigid manipulative stances.

The roles can stay fixed forever. However, the Karpman’s triangle is about roles not being fixed, of being interchangeable where the victim can act like a persecutor, and where the persecutor can act like a victim, and where the rescuer can act like a perpetrator in defending the perpetrator’s actions, and another victim to defend the victim’s actions.  

On the other hand in the last healthy triangle as elaborated by psychologist Rhoda Mills Sommer two people resolve to give up “dodging, deflecting and blaming” to “honestly face painful situations” and “take responsibility” and “negotiate”. This type of triangulation requires risk taking , vulnerability, and authenticity. It requires the development of self-awareness of one’s own dark side instead of blaming others, openness to dialogue instead of self-protecting monologues and narcissism.

In a parent-child relationship for instance, as the persecutor parent blames the victim child for not doing what she is expected and told to do, and escalates the anger and rage to get her way, the victim blames the mother for holding her back (infantilizing; i.e. not respecting that the daughter is an adult with her own way of doing things which may be separate from the mother). The persecutor is blamed by the victim for not loving her enough to stop hurting her, and the victim is blamed by the persecutor for not loving her enough to capitulate to all of the persecutor’s demands. Triangulation is typical in alcoholic and narcissistic families.

Let’s demonstrate now with some of Shakespeare’s plays. In doing so it may become more apparent how the world of psychology can be applied to that of geo-politics. We will briefly peruse three plays: King Lear, MacBeth, Romeo and Juliet.

In King Lear the question arises: Who is at fault for King Lear dying on exposure in a storm. Cordelia for not pleasing her fathers? Goneril and Regan for lying to their father about their feelings and intentions? King Lear for expecting the flattery of his daughters to ensure his happiness and care in old age? Everyone has a part, but can any one person be blamed for the unfolding of events?

MacBeth: Who is at fault for the tragedy here? MacBeth, the witches, Lady MacBeth, Banquo or the murderers? It seems like there are a lot of people who contribute to the tragedy; one person would be hard-pressed to do it all alone.

Romeo and Juliet: Who is at fault for the lovers’ double suicide? Mercutio, Tybalt, Lady Capulet who insists that Juliet marry Paris, the prince of Verona who banishes Romeo, the nurse who insists that Juliet forget all about Romeo and do what her parents desire by marrying Paris, Friar Lawrence for giving Juliet a fake vial of poison, the reluctant Apothecary who gives Romeo some real poison, the entire families of Capulets and Montagues, or Romeo and Juliet themselves?

In alcoholic and narcissistic families sometimes an authority figure decides who is to blame for everything that goes wrong in a family: a scapegoat. In King Lear, for instance, Cordelia would be blamed for everything that went wrong. So, to keep with a scapegoating agenda, the play would have to be rewritten so that Shakespeare and all of the characters he created would all blame Cordelia. What she was blamed for would not stop at not flattering her father, the king, but would grow by leaps and bounds. Perhaps Cordelia would be blamed for too much honesty, and through default for inspiring her sisters to lie. Cordelia would be termed ungrateful for choosing honesty over dishonest flattery as her two evil sisters had done. The sisters would have been seen as doing what is best by casting Lear out into a storm. Cordelia would somehow be blamed for her father being in the storm and exposed to the elements, perhaps because she was also cast out and thereby should have magically found her father and taken responsibility for him. Cordelia would also be blamed for Lear’s death, of course.

Anything else that might have implicated another character in the play would be Cordelia’s fault as well. The writer would desperately grasp at anything that would always make Cordelia responsible for the events in her family, while making everyone else innocent. A glance, rolling eyes, a feeling by Cordelia would be blackened by the narrator to make her motives seem sinister. She would be villainized and tortured for all of it. It might not have been enough that she was merely banished. The rack and the screw might have been used too. Meanwhile Goneril and Regan would have been exonerated, held in the highest regard. This is typical alcoholic, narcissistic dysfunctional family thinking.

Shakespeare is wiser than this: he knows that there are nuances that go into the making of a family tragedy: everyone has a part that contributes to the ultimate ending of the story. He knew that relationships require disagreements in order to remain authentic; they require dialogue. In the scapegoat family dynamic one person is chosen on whom to blame any issue that proves painful or uncomfortable, or makes someone look bad. Here the triangulation consists of the alcoholic, the enablers and the scapegoat. Even when the scapegoat leaves the family, another family scapegoat is adopted.

Then there is the dysfunctional narcissistic family triangulation which consists of the bully golden child (one thinks of Donald Trump’s spoiled childhood), who is always receiving special treatment and learns early in life to bully, to charm, to lie and to manipulate, the Narcissistic parent who believes that the bully golden child can do no wrong and the scapegoat child can do no right. The bully golden child and the narcissistic parent sycophantically flatter each other while bullying the scapegoat. Here the narcissistic parent rather than referee sibling rivalry will manipulate the children in order to obtain what he wants out of them. They encourage the sibling rivalry so that they compete for parental love. As all narcissists those parents or parent figures (here again Donald Trump jumps to mind) are addicted to flattery, praise, power and control over others and will resort to unethical behavior to get it.

A narcissist cannot stand to feel criticized and will severely punish those who even come close to suggesting that he may be a less than perfect parent. So complaints about the golden bully boy are not acceptable. The bullied or scapegoated children learn to keep quiet about the abuse and accept the label of “difficult child.” The family becomes a perfect family doing quite well in the eyes of society.

From the brief outline above we may conclude that triangulation is an indirect dynamic of communication and behaviors involving more than two people that are unhealthy and unwholesome. The trademarks of triangulation are covert operations, deceit and abuse. The simple definition of triangulation is: one individual attacking, discrediting (smearing) or/ and abusing another person with the use of third-party people or institutions.

The question arises: can this psychological theory be applied as well to polities and institutions. I think it can. Institutions and societies can also fall into triangulation. Just think of Plato’s Republic which in some way reflects the ancient Greek belief that to have a republic of virtue one needs individuals of virtue and wholesome character forming it. It is not the well governed city that produces virtuous individuals but the other way around. That ultimately means that individuals retain responsibility for a badly governed and corrupt city or society.

The narcissist is severely emotionally stunted and underdeveloped. Regardless of how mentally high functioning a narcissist appears to be, or how successful he might have become in some field of endeavor, he or she has the emotional intelligence of an angry, irrational young child. The narcissist has such intense disowned inner parts of shame and self-loathing, that he/she not only behaves abysmally (on a hair-line trigger) after perceiving any criticism (intended or not), he or she has to disown any accountability to these knee-jerk reactions. Here we have the example of the present occupier of the White House.

The narcissist has tried to amputate him or herself away from his or her dark and painful inner shadows unsuccessfully. They still exist, and because he/she will not embrace them, take responsibility for them, or heal them they are super-imposed onto the targeted person. Thus the narcissist, in his or her maladapted thinking, believes you are the pathological person acting out atrocious behavior and that he or she is the victim.

The narcissistic (unconsciously) attacks and tries to destroy the parts of him or herself that he or she despises – the parts that have been projected on to you. This is the irony of narcissistic abuse – the narcissist acts out and abuses you and then blames you for these acts and seeks to punish your further. The narcissist is totally oblivious that the fueling of his or her narcissistic rage is self-hatred. You just happen to be the container ‘holding’ these projected split-off parts.

The very definition of unconsciousness is the inability to self-reflect. This retards all ability to grow, heal and evolve – and this is narcissism personified. Is this is what Socrates meant by his dictum that “the unexamined life is not worth living?” Without self-reflection is left with the unconscious and its outbursts.

The triangulation process begins when the narcissist acts narcissistically toward someone, the abused person reacts, and is then classified by the narcissist as ‘the enemy’.

According to the narcissist’s disordered psyche brutal offence is necessary in order to survive. The narcissist truly believes the threat needs to be eliminated, and he or she needs to get the upper hand and disable you before you attack. The Christian maxim “do unto others as you’d want them to do unto you” is turned into “do unto them before they do unto you.” One is adored and then abhorred on a dime. It is a process of dehumanization that can be devastating for those who experience it.

What has happened is that the narcissist has regressed back to the stunted childhood wounds deeply embedded inside him or her, when he/she felt victimized, unacceptable, unlovable, powerless, in short violated. But the wounds are disowned and so they take a life of their own and powerfully control the narcissist’s personality. The demons producing pain, panic and rage are projected on to someone else and the person on whom they have been projected is destroyed with the wounds. The cycle is repeated person after person but never producing healing.

So the narcissist has the capacity to dehumanize and demonize anyone on whom his shadows are projected. You have a terrified child in an aggressive adult’s body doing what he thinks is needed to stop the assault he/she imagines you are capable of and from which he/she feels powerless to defend from. Allies have to be recruited.

Triangulation is a tactic he or she has generally mastered at a very early age. Virtually every narcissist does it, and it is one of the absolute trademarks of narcissism. It is underpinned by deep deception. One recruits an organization or another person to do one’s bidding. Most narcissist are amoral and situational. It all depends on the circumstances and the end justifies the means. The narcissist is adept at lying pathologically. His/her brain is disorderly wired to the point that he/she believes his/her own lies. The kind of brain they possess with hard wired neuron pathways for self-avoidance are very good in creating stories and alternate realities which will justify the telling of lies. They have perfected over a life-time the art of acting out emotions in order to manipulate.

Organisations often have no option other than to get involved with the narcissist’s lies, because it’s their job to investigate claims of child-abuse, criminal activity, fraud, tax-evasion, violence etc.

One of the most simplest and profound realisations is this: when we have unresolved trauma it is trapped in our bodies. It then has ‘a life of its own’. What this means is we have internalised the abuser, and the abusive acts and we remain bonded to them, and we will continue re-creating that abuse over and over again.

Given all those premises, how would geopolitical triangulation mirror psychological triangulation?

Let’s substitute person A B C above in the triangulation above with three political entities. The Russian Federation which is an enormous territory spanning eleven time zones borders with another vast territory comprised of a confederation of 27 nations, the European Union. One of those two does not wish to respect the boundary of the other. To get around that boundary, without provoking a major conflict, political entity B establishes a relationship with a third polity which does not belong to the Union or the Confederation, let’s say Norway, or the Ukraine, as we see in the TV series Okkupart, already examined in another article in MD.

Triangulation has de facto occurred. As such, if indeed it mirrors the psychological triangulation above examined, it is a toxic relationship, not one based on mutual respect of each other’s autonomy and on dialogue but one based on raw Machiavellian power (might makes right) and control of the weaker entity by the more powerful, all accomplished by abusing a third entity which has been velvet occupied, not with an army but with disinformation, deception, cyber-space, manipulation. It used to be called Finlandization: we will leave you sovereign with a truncated autonomy as long as you stay in our sphere of influence. Now it is called “velvet occupation.”

The geo-political experts would like us to believe that it is to the advantage of the weaker nations that they triangulate and play one power against another agreeing with both or perhaps disagreeing with both, which is another form of corruption because the weaker nations who decide to triangulate remain under the influence of or the other nation and never learn to be free and autonomous. In other words, as we see in the series Okkupert, which has been vehemently protested by the Russian ambassador in Norway, liberty, autonomy and democracy are progressively weakened till some patriots decide to resist, as we see in the movie. Just as on the psychological plane, triangulation appears as a solution but it is ultimately toxic for a free democratic society, the same thing may be happening on the political level. Is it is a mere mode of survival of the fittest?

As mentioned, this line of thought is valid as long as we accept the Platonic-Aristotelian idea (which is not Machiavellian nor Hobbesian) that it is virtuous citizens who form a republic of virtue and not a republic of virtue that forms virtuous citizens. I suppose the dialogue, if one is desirable and preferable to another World War, needs to begin with Plato’s Republic, go through Augustine’s City of God, Machiavelli’s Prince, Hobbes’ Leviathan, the Declaration of Independence, and Marx Das Kapital but the ultimate concern needs to remain the preservation of democracy, liberty, and our very humanity. As Kierkegaard reminded us; the sickness unto death consists in being sick and not even consciously know it. For once we have lost our humanity, everything else will not matter any longer.

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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New Social Compact

Demand for Investigation of COVID-19 gained momentum

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Human history is full of natural disasters like Earthquakes, Floods, Fires, Vacanos, Drought, Famine, Pandemic, etc. Some of them were really huge and have been damaged a lot. The outbreak of diseases was also very common in the past, like Spanish Flu, Tuberculosis, Cholera, Ebola, SARS, Middle-East-Virus, etc. However, the most damaging in recent history is COVID-19.

According to Worldometer, the latest data reveal that Coronavirus Cases has reached :

193,422,021, and death toll touched: 4,151,655. However, these are the official data provided by each individual country to Worldometer. The actual data is much more, as some countries have limited resources and could not test their population on a bigger scale, whereas few countries hide the actual data to save face, like India. Prime Minister Modi has mishandled the Pandemic and politicized it. His extremist approach toward minorities and political opponents has worsened the situation. He is afraid, if the public comes to know the actual disasters, he may lose political popularity and have to leave the office. Unofficial sources on groud estimate the actual figures are almost ten times higher. He has taken strict measures to hide the actual data and control media on reporting facts.

Whatever the actual data, even the official data shows a big disaster. Almost all nations became the victim of it and suffered heavily. The loss of human lives and the economic loss have made the whole World think seriously.

It is time to investigate the origin of COVID-19. There are many theories, and some are part of the blame game and politics, without proper investigations and reliable evidence. The World is so much polarized that it is very difficult to believe any side of the views and blames. Under this scenario, it is the World Health Organization (WHO) responsibility to conduct a transparent investigation and reach the source of COVID-19. It is believed that the whole World may trust WHO.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian demanded on Wednesday that the United States show transparency and conduct a thorough investigation into its Fort Detrick laboratory and other biological labs overseas over the origins of COVID-19 in response to appeals from people in China and around the World. By Wednesday afternoon, an open letter published on Saturday asking the World Health Organization to probe Fort Detrick had garnered nearly 5 million signatures from Chinese netizens.

“The soaring number reflects the Chinese people’s demands and anger at some people in the US who manipulate the origin-tracing issue for political reasons,” Zhao said at a regular news briefing in Beijing.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “cease and desist order” in July 2019 to halt research at Fort Detrick that involved dangerous organisms like the Ebola virus. The same month, a “respiratory outbreak” of unknown cause saw more than 60 residents in a Northern Virginia retirement community become ill. Later that year, Maryland, where Fort Detrick is based, witnessed a doubling of the number of residents who developed a respiratory illness related to vaping.

But the CDC never released information about the shutdown of the lab’s deadly germ research operations, citing “national security reasons”. “An investigation into Fort Detrick is long-overdue, but the US has not done it yet, so the mystery remains unsolved,” Zhao said, adding that was a question the US must answer regarding the tracing of the origins of COVID-19.

There are 630,000 of its citizens lost to the Pandemic. The US should take concrete measures to investigate the origins of the virus at home thoroughly, discover the reason for its inadequate response to the Pandemic, and punish those who should be held accountable. Especially in the initial days, the mishandling of the Pandemic by then-President Trump was a significant cause of the rapidly spreading of the virus, which must be addressed adequately. Washington remains silent whenever Fort Detrick is mentioned. It seeks to stigmatize and demonize China under the pretext of origin-tracing.

It appealed that the WHO may come forward and conduct through research and investigation in a professional, scientific, and transparent manner to satisfy the whole World.

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How to eliminate Learning Poverty

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Children learn more and are more likely to stay in school if they are first taught in a language that they speak and understand. Yet, an estimated 37 percent of students in low- and middle-income countries are required to learn in a different language, putting them at a significant disadvantage throughout their school life and limiting their learning potential. According to a new World Bank report Loud and Clear: Effective Language of Instruction Policies for Learning, effective language of instruction (LoI) policies are central to reducing Learning Poverty and improving other learning outcomes, equity, and inclusion.

Instruction unfolds through language – written and spoken – and children learning to read and write is foundational to learning all other academic subjects.  The Loud and Clear report puts it simply: too many children are taught in a language they don’t understand, which is one of the most important reasons why many countries have very low learning levels.

Children most impacted by such policies and choices are often disadvantaged in other ways – they are in the bottom 40 percent of the socioeconomic scale and live in more remote areas.  They also lack the family resources to address the effects of ineffective language policies on their learning. This contributes to higher dropout rates, repetition rates, higher Learning Poverty, and lower learning overall.

“The devastating impacts of COVID-19 on learning is placing an entire generation at risk,” says Mamta Murthi, World Bank Vice President for Human Development. “Even before the pandemic, many education systems put their students at a disadvantage by requiring children to learn in languages they do not know well – and, in far too many cases, in languages they do not know at all. Teaching children in a language they understand is essential to recover and accelerate learning, improve human capital outcomes, and build back more effective and equitable education systems.”

The new LoI report notes that when children are first taught in a language that they speak and understand, they learn more, are better placed to learn other languages, are able to learn other subjects such as math and science, are more likely to stay in school, and enjoy a school experience appropriate to their culture and local circumstances. Moreover, this lays the strongest foundation for learning in a second language later on in school. As effective LoI policies improve learning and school progression, they reduce country costs per student and, thus, enables more efficient use of public funds to enhance more access and quality of education for all children.

“The language diversity in Sub-Saharan Africa is one of its main features – while the region has 5 official languages, there are 940 minority languages spoken in Western and Central Africa and more than 1,500 in Sub-Saharan Africa, which makes education challenges even more pronounced,” says Ousmane Diagana, World Bank Regional Vice President for Western and Central Africa. “By adopting better language-of-instruction policies, countries will enable children to have a much better start in school and get on the right path to build the human capital they need to sustain long-term productivity and growth of their economies.” 

The report explains that while pre-COVID-19, the world had made tremendous progress in getting children to school, the near-universal enrollment in primary education did not lead to near-universal learning. In fact, before the outbreak of the pandemic, 53 percent of children in low- and middle-income countries were living in Learning Poverty, that is, were unable to read and understand an age-appropriate text by age 10. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the figure was closer to 90 percent. Today, the unprecedented twin shocks of extended school closures and deep economic recession associated with the pandemic are threatening to make the crisis even more dire, with early estimates suggesting that Learning Poverty could rise to a record 63 percent. These poor learning outcomes are, in many cases, a reflection of inadequate language of instruction policies.

“The message is loud and clear.  Children learn best when taught in a language they understand, and this offers the best foundation for learning in a second language,” stressed Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Global Director for Education. “This deep and unjust learning crisis requires action. Investments in education systems around the world will not yield significant learning improvements if students do not understand the language in which they are taught. Substantial improvements in Learning Poverty are possible by teaching children in the language they speak at home.”

The new World Bank policy approach to language of instruction is guided by 5 principles:

1. Teach children in their first language starting with Early Childhood Education and Care services through at least the first six years of primary schooling.

2. Use a student’s first language for instruction in academic subjects beyond reading and writing.

3.  If students are to learn a second language in primary school, introduce it as a foreign language with an initial focus on oral language skills.

4. Continue first language instruction even after a second language becomes the principal language of instruction.

5. Continuously plan, develop, adapt, and improve the implementation of language of instruction policies, in line with country contexts and educational goals.

Of course, these language of instruction policies need to be well integrated within a larger package of policies to ensure alignment with the political commitment and the instructional coherence of the system.

This approach will guide the World Bank’s financing and advisory support for countries to provide high-quality early childhood and basic education to all their students. The World Bank is the largest source of external financing for education in developing countries – in fiscal year 2021, it broke another record and committed $5.5 billion of IBRD and IDA resources in new operations and, in addition, committed $0.8 billion of new grants with GPE financing, across a total of 60 new education projects in 45 countries.

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World leaders must fully fund education in emergencies and protracted crises

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Many schools in Afghanistan have suffered the effects of long-term conflict. ©UNICEF/Marko Kokic

During June’s UN Security Council High-Level Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict, leaders from across the world stood up to call for expanded support for education in emergencies to protect vulnerable children and youth enduring armed conflicts, climate change-related disasters, forced displacement and protracted crises.

In our collective race to leave no child behind and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in just nine short years, now is the time to translate these universal values and human rights into action.

The will is there. Nations across the globe, UN leaders and other key stakeholders stood up to address the horrific attacks on education happening on a daily basis and called for increased funding for organizations working to ensure crisis-affected children have access to safe, quality education.

Irish President Michael Higgins focused on education, protection and accountability in his address.

“I am sure that we can all agree that it is morally reprehensible that 1 in every 3 children living in countries affected by conflict or disaster is out of school. Schools should be protected, be a safe shelter and space for learning and development,” said Higgins. “Ireland prioritizes access to education in emergencies. We have committed to spend €250 million on global education by 2024. That is why we are launching the Girls Fund to support grassroots groups led by girls, advancing gender equality in their own communities.”

Nicolas de Rivière, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, highlighted support from France to Education Cannot Wait, as well as the importance of protection for children caught in emergencies.

“The socio-economic consequences of the pandemic and school closures put children at greater risk: inequalities are increasing in all regions of the world. Acts of domestic violence, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and school dropout have increased,” said de Rivière. “School closures increase recruitment by armed groups as well as child labor. Here, as everywhere, girls also have specific vulnerabilities. I am thinking in particular of the risk of early and forced marriage. For its part, France will continue to play an active role and promote the universal endorsement of the Paris Principles and Commitments. In the field, we support projects that guarantee access to education in emergency situations, notably the Education Cannot Wait Fund.”

Children under attack

The number of grave violations against children rose to 19,000 in 2020 according to the UN Secretary-General’s Report on Children in Armed Conflict, released in May 2021. To put this number in context, that’s over 50 girls and boys every day that are killed or maimed, recruited and used as soldiers, abducted, sexually violated, attacked in a school or hospitals, or denied their humanitarian access to things like food and water. 

The numbers are staggering. Last year, more than 8,400 children and youth were killed or maimed in ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Another 7,000 were recruited and used as fighters, mainly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia and Syria. With COVID-19 straining budgets and humanitarian support for child protection, abductions rose by 90 per cent last year, while rape and other forms of sexual violence shot up 70 per cent.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres underscored the need to support the Safe Schools Declaration and the Children in Armed Conflict mandate in his address to the UN Security Council.

“We are also seeing schools and hospitals constantly attacked, looted, destroyed, or used for military purposes, with girls’ education and health facilities targeted disproportionately. As we mark the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Children in Armed Conflict mandate, its continued relevance is sadly clear and it remains a proven tool for protecting the world’s children,” said Guterres. 

This is a vast human tragedy playing out across the globe. And despite efforts to support the Safe Schools Declaration, to re-imagine education during the COVID-19 pandemic and to align forces to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we seem to be backsliding on our commitments.

Just imagine being a mother and learning that your daughter will not be coming home from school today. That she was abducted, along with 150 other students at their school in Nigeria. Imagine seeing your son, Sabir, lose his leg after being shot by armed gunmen in South Sudan. Imagine being a Rohingya girl like Janet Ara, who hid in forests, forged rivers and is now seeking a better life and opportunity through an education in the refugee camps of Bangladesh.

Imagine the trauma and terror … now imagine the opportunity.

A wake-up call

If we can come together to give every girl and boy on the planet access to a quality education, we can build a more peaceful, secure, humane and prosperous world.

Before COVID-19 hit, we calculated that at least 75 million children and youth caught in crisis and emergencies were being denied their right to an education. But with schools closed and many children at risk of never returning to the classroom, that number has jumped to around 128 million. That’s more than the total population of the United Kingdom. That’s more than the total populations of Canada, Denmark and Norway combined.

Denying these children their right to a quality education perpetuates cycles of poverty, violence, displacement and chaos.

As the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) offers a new approach to break these negative cycles for good.

This means embracing a New Way of Working that brings in actors from across all sectors – national governments, donors, development, humanitarian response and education actors, national and local civil society, the private sector and more – to break down silos and work together to deliver whole-of-child solutions for whole-of-society problems.

In doing so we are bridging the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. Through ground-breaking collective action with partners across the globe, ECW has already launched multi-year resilience programmes and first emergency responses across more than 30 countries and crisis contexts and is on track to do more.

By doing so we can replace the cycle of poverty, violence, displacement and chaos with a cycle of education, empowerment, economic development, peace and new opportunities for future generations.

Delivering on our promise for universal, equitable education

The ECW model has proven to work. 

In just a few short years of operation, ECW has already provided 4.6 million crisis-affected girls and boys with access to a quality education. We’ve worked with national governments, donors, UN agencies and NGOs to reach 29.2 million girls and boys with our education in emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Bangladesh, girls like Janet Ara are returning to school, children with disabilities like Yasmina are accessing the support they need to learn, grow and thrive, and organizations like BRAC are receiving the support they need to build back better from the fires.

In Afghanistan, girls like Bibi Nahida are attending school for the first time, remote learning is helping children to continue their education during the pandemic, and female teachers are being recruited to teach biology, science and empower an entire generation of girls.

In Colombia and Ecuador, refugee children fleeing violence, hunger and poverty in Venezuela are being brought into schools, provided with laptops and cellular plans, and the psychosocial support they need to recover from the anxiety and stress of displacement.

Our call to action

An investment in education is an investment in the present and the future.

Recent analysis indicates that the likelihood of violence and conflict drops by 37% when girls and boys have equal access to education. Incomes go up by as much as 10% for each year of additional learning, while an estimated $15 to $30 trillion could be generated if every girl everywhere were able to complete 12 years of education.

We are making important headway with partners across the globe. The amount of humanitarian funding for education increased five times between 2015 and 2019 – and accounted for 5.1% of humanitarian funding in 2019.

Nevertheless, just 43.5% of humanitarian appeals for education were mobilized that same year.

That means girls like Bibi and Janet Ara may be pushed out of school, boys like Sabir might be recruited into armed groups. And children with disabilities like Yasmina will be pushed to the sidelines.

We have the will. Now it’s time to turn that will into action.

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