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Promoting access to quality, safe, and relevant education for all persons affected by crisis

History and Development

Background on the Development of the INEE Minimum Standards

The dramatic rise in the number of education programs in emergency situations is indisputable. From Kosovo to East Timor, Afghanistan to Sierra Leone, an overwhelming number of children’s lives have been protected and restored to normalcy through education programs implemented by a range of leading humanitarian agencies. As the number of such programs continues to rise, however, two issues have come to the forefront:

  1. a broad-based desire and commitment to ensure a certain level of quality and accountability among education programs in situations of crisis; and
  2. a recognition that education cannot remain “outside” the mainstream humanitarian debate but must be seen as a priority humanitarian response.


Standards serve as a platform for defining good practice and also provide a powerful advocacy tool both inside humanitarian organizations and externally with governments, donors and populations affected by conflict.

At an initial meeting, sponsored by six key NGO members, UNESCO, and INEE, 31 experts decided on the applicability and relevance of minimum standards for education in emergencies and identified a mechanism for defining and promoting such standards. For details, read the meeting report: Education in Emergencies: Experts’ Workshop on Appropriate Humanitarian Response (pdf).

In the first phase of the development of the Minimum Standards, INEE’s Working Group on Minimum Standards’ mandate was to develop, in consultation with a variety of stakeholders, a set of minimum standards for education in emergency settings. The following organizations and their representatives that composed the INEE Working Group and led the standards process were:

CARE Canada (Nancy Drost)
Catholic Relief Services (Mike Pozniak)
IRC (Rebecca Winthrop)
Norwegian Church Council (Birgit Heimdal Villumstad)
Norwegian Refugee Council and the Norway United Nations Association (Helge Brochmann)
Save the Children-UK (Susan Nicolai)
Save the Children USA (Christine Knudsen)
Refugee Education Trust (Tim Brown)
UNICEF (Pilar Aguilar)
UNESCO-IIEP (Christopher Talbot)
UNHCR (Nemia Temporal)
World Education (Fred Ligon)

Additional documents about the initiative to develop INEE’s Minimum Standards and the INEE Working Group on Minimum Standards (2003-2004)


Building Minimum Standards from the Ground Up: Field-based Consultation

In 2003, the INEE Working Group on Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies, Chronic Crises and Early Reconstruction began facilitating the development of standards, indicators and guidance notes that articulate a minimum level of educational quality and access in emergencies and the early reconstruction phase. The main components of this process were regional, sub-regional and national consultations; on-line consultation inputs via the INEE list-serve; and a peer review process. Information gathered from each step was used to inform the next phase of the process.

The standards development process received financial support from the Academy For Educational Development and the Global Learning Portal, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the International Rescue Committee, the International Save the Children Alliance, Save the Children Norway, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), US contributions to UNESCO for the reconstruction of education systems in post-conflict countries, UNHCR, UNICEF and, USAID.

Given the humanitarian community’s widespread familiarity with and use of the Sphere minimum standards, INEE adopted the Sphere Project’s definitions of minimum standards, indicators and guidance notes:

Minimum standard: The minimum level of service to be attained in humanitarian assistance.
Indicator: Signals that show whether a standard has been attained. They provide a way of measuring and communicating the impact, or result of programmes as well as the process, or methods used. They can be qualitative or quantitative.
Guidance notes: These include specific points to consider when applying the standards in different situations, guidance on tackling practical difficulties and advice on priority issues. May also include critical issues relating to the standards or indicators, describe dilemmas, controversies or gaps in current knowledge.

One concrete way in which INEE’s Minimum Standards process reflects the lessons learned from the Sphere Project is the inclusiveness of the initiative. While Sphere has been an NGO-led initiative, the Working Group is made up of both UN and NGO organisations. The Working Group made special efforts to ensure that representatives from a variety of levels, including households, schools and communities, local authorities, ministry officials, funding agencies and implementers, were actively involved throughout the consultative process in order to ensure relevance to and buy-in from all education stakeholders.

Prior to the regional consultations, delegates and INEE members in the regions coordinated over 110 local, national, and sub-regional consultations (pdf download) in 47 countries to gather input and information from over 1,900 representatives of affected communities, including students, teachers and other education personnel; NGO, government and UN representatives with experience in education; donors and academics. INEE also received almost 100 responses to questions aimed at stimulating thought and discussion on education minimum standards that were posted on the INEE list-serve, drawing on first-hand experience from members. The delegates at the regional consultations built upon the standards, indicators and guidance notes developed at the national and local consultations in their regions as well as the listserv responses to develop regional minimum standards at the collective consultations.

INEE Listserv Consultations

The INEE’s 800-plus members also participated in the development of minimum standards through INEE list-serve consultations. The Working Group on Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies developed relevant questions for the INEE list-serve members to gain initial feedback, drawing on member perspectives and first-hand experience. This was an essential component in the process to develop minimum standards to serve as a platform for defining good practice. The responses to the questions posed stimulated discussion and interest in the development of standards

Regional Consultations

Between January and May 2004, INEE’s Working Group on Minimum Standards facilitated four regional consultations on minimum standards for education in emergencies covering the regions of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe:


The 137 delegates to these regional consultations included representatives from affected populations, international and local NGOs, governments and UN agencies in 51 countries around the world: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia, Burundi, Cambodia, Chechnya, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Dominica & St. Vincent, Dominican Republic, DRC, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Guinea, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, Lebanon, Liberia, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Philippines, Peru, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. Delegates included representatives from affected populations, international and local NGOs, governments and UN agencies.

In addition, consultations on minimum standards were held in the UK, hosted by Save the Children UK and the Institute of Education, University of London; in New York, hosted by the International Rescue Committee; in Washington, DC, hosted by InterAction; and in Oslo, Norway, hosted by the Norwegian Refugee Council.

The focus on national, sub-regional and regional consultations was meant to ensure that the standards reflect regional concerns and have a broad consultative basis. The objective of the minimum standards initiative was to develop, through a wide-ranging consultative process, minimum standards for education that can be used as a starting point for systems in crisis.

Peer Review Process

The final phase of this consultative initiative was the peer review process, which took place during the summer of 2004 and involved over 40 experts. The INEE Working Group on Minimum Standard’s Drafting Group and the Peer Facilitator, Joan Sullivan-Owomoyela, analysed the four sets of regional standards and honed them into one. The Peer Facilitator then held a ‘virtual consultation’ with the peer review experts, a group comprising education, health, humanitarian and protection specialists from NGO and UN agencies and governments, as well as academic and research institutions. The outcome of this peer review facilitation process was a honed set of global standards. Read in more detail about the peer review process.

During September 2004, the final draft of the minimum standards was posted on the INEE website, and members were invited to give their feedback. Given the need to maintain the integrity of this highly consultative process, INEE only considered edits that left the essence of the standards, indicators and guidance notes intact. Because the standards are meant to be a living tool, substantive comments are being compiled for future revision.

The final standards were launched at INEE’s Second Global Inter-Agency Consultation on Education in Emergencies and Early Recovery, December 2-4, 2004 in Cape Town, South Africa.

Further Reading on the Development of the Minimum Standards: Humanitarian Practice Network article, Developing minimum standards for education in emergencies, December 2004.

Working Group on Minimum Standards

To read about the subsequent development and work of the Working Group on Minimum Standards, visit the Working Group on Minimum Standards page.