Increasing Refugees’ Access to Education and Economic Integration in their Host Country

Globally, there are over 27 million refugees and currently 10 refugee emergencies around the world (“Refugees”). Beyond coordinating the placement of refugees and safeguarding their safety in cooperation with the host countries, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) plays an important role in ensuring that refugees can successfully integrate into their host countries. Although refugees are protected under international law—the 1951 UN Refugee Convention notably stipulates that refugees have a right not to be returned to the country from which they fled—they are often socially and economically excluded from their host country communities. 83% of refugees are hosted in low- or middle-income countries, which have limited capacity to support them.

The Global Compact on Refugees, passed by the UN General Assembly in 2018, is a critical framework for governments, international organizations, and other actors to ensure that host communities are supported and that refugees can lead productive lives. Two of the Compact’s key objectives are to ease the pressures on host countries and enhance refugee self-reliance. The Compact advocates for sustainable long-term solutions to refugee situations, which can only be realized through international cooperation. Finding long-term solutions is key to sharing the responsibility of helping refugees build better futures through economic and educational means.

The successful integration of refugee communities into their country of asylum hinges on the protection of their basic rights, such as the right to work, access financial services, and to go to school. However, 70% of refugees live in countries with restricted right to work, 66% with restricted freedom of movement and 47% with restricted access to bank accounts (“Livelihoods and Economic Inclusion”). In countries that have been hosting large numbers of refugees over long periods of time, efforts towards integration into the local economy are essential to reduce the tensions that can occur between refugees and host communities over resources, land, jobs and other services. The UNHRC, through the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is responsible for building partnerships with financial service providers, the International Labour Organization (ILO), development agencies like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and private sector companies to increase refugees’ self-reliance within their local host economy. In host countries where work is already underway to strengthen refugees’ livelihoods, the UNHCR coordinates with governments, humanitarian and development actors, the private sector and other partners to enhance inclusion and access of refugees to employment and entrepreneurship opportunities and related services and programs. Integration into the local economy is a necessary step in helping refugees become more resilient and self-reliant.

Education is a basic human right, enshrined in the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 1951 Refugee Convention. The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants cites education as a crucial element of the international refugee response, and Sustainable Development Goal 4 aims to “ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for…children in vulnerable situations” (“Goal 4: Education”). However, these commitments to education do not reflect the reality that millions of refugee children face. About 48% of all refugee children remain out of school, and while figures at the primary level remain promising, significant structural barriers remain for refugee learners to access post-primary education. At the primary level, the average gross enrollment rate from March 2019 to March 2020 for reporting countries was 68%; for secondary-level education, 34%; for tertiary-level education, 5% (“Education”). School enrollment has the potential to transform the lives of millions of refugee children by offering them a sense of stability, fostering meaningful social connections within their host community, granting them the freedom to explore new educational pathways, and rebuilding their communities. Education also has the ability to protect refugee children and youth from forced recruitment into armed groups, child labor, sexual exploitation, and child marriage.

Whether refugees choose to return back home voluntarily once the situation is safe, resettle to a third country, or integrate and become citizens of their country of asylum, it is essential that countries of asylum provide refugee communities with stability through economic and educational pathways. It will be the responsibility of this committee to explore the actions that host governments can and should take to protect and promote refugees’ right to work and to attend school.

Questions to consider:

  1. What is your government’s relationship with its refugee communities (i.e., what has the policy response looked like)? Has it provided refugees with documentation that entitles refugees to work or attend school in your country? Has civil society’s response to accommodating refugee communities been overwhelmingly positive or negative?
  2. What is your country doing to address the issues of access to education and/or increased economic integration for refugees, whether it be within your own country, in another country, through the UN, or otherwise?
  3. What role can the private sector play in increasing the economic opportunities available to refugees and their host communities? How can host governments help facilitate or encourage greater involvement and investment from the private sector in refugee communities?
  4. What steps can host governments take to ensure universal and equitable access to primary and secondary education for refugee children?
  5. How important is access to tertiary education within the greater discussion of refugee education?
  6. How should host countries engage civil society to support their actions in the areas of refugee education and in the economic development of refugee communities?

Resources to consider:

“Education Report 2021.” UNHCR , 2021, 

“Global Appeal 2022.” UNHCR , 2022, 

“Integration Programs.” UNHCR , 2021, 

“Refugee Coordination Guidance.” UNHCR , 2019, .

“Refugee Education Statistics: Issues and Recommendations.” UNESCO Institute for Statistics

and UNHCR , 2021, 

“The Global Compact on Refugees.” UNHCR , 

“UNHCR’s Strategic Directions 2017-2021.” UNHCR , 2017, 

“United States Education Pathways Report.” Coordinating Team for the Initiative on U.S.

Education Pathways for Refugee Students , 2021, 


“Education.” UNHCR , 

“Emergencies.” UNHCR , 

“Figures at a Glance.” UNHCR , 

“Goal 4: Education.” United Nations Sustainable Development Goals , 

“Livelihoods and Economic Inclusion.” UNHCR ,

“Refugees.” UNHCR , 

“Statute of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.” UNHCR , 

“The 1951 Refugee Convention.” UNHCR , 

“UNHCR Private-Sector Partners Win Big at This Year’s FT/IFC Awards.” UNHCR , 2020, 

“Working with Partners: UNHCR’s Collaboration within the United Nations System.” UNHCR ,