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Over 10 Years Since It Was First Introduced, a US Law Just Passed to Help Educate Children Everywhere

Humanitarian crises are on the rise around the world. The number of displaced people sits at an all time high, at over 65 million, according to the UNHCR. That is more than the population of the United Kingdom – or of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand combined.

And a majority of this staggering number are children.

In times of crisis, urgent relief is required in the form of food, water, or shelter. Yet one resource that is critical to helping people rebuild their lives is often overlooked in the aftermath: education.

Which is why, right now, over 75 million children are currently not in school due to conflict and emergencies. And why funding requests for education in emergencies have increased by over 20% over the past five years. Yet still total funding for education in crisis makes up less than 3% of humanitarian aid.

The Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act, seeks to address this critical issue alongside many others.

Passed in September, the law requires no new spending but mandates the US to develop a comprehensive integrated strategy to promote basic education and increase transparency to help ensure millions of children receive the education they deserve.

Read more: Why Sculptures of Fences, Cages, and Walls Are Popping Up All Over New York City

The work will focus on marginalized populations including girls and, as mentioned, refugee children. Critically, it will help every child it touches to break the cycles of poverty, violence, and extremism that all are vulnerable to without adequate education.

Though it sounds like a no brainer, getting bills passed into law is challenging — as Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and then Senator Hillary Clinton will tell you, who first presented the bill back in 2004, 13 years ago.

Global Citizen joined Rep. Lowey, Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA), Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on their campaign to to get the READ Act passed for nearly four years. And we can tell you that it was not all easy sailing. In December of last year, the bill appeared to be close to becoming law when one Senator put the brakes on the legislation. But thanks to persistent grassroots advocacy and high level negotiations, we got there in the end.

Read more: The READ Act Has Passed in The Senate

With any public pressure campaign, it’s hard to isolate the catalyst for success.

In September 2016, Global Citizen joined partners to host a livestream conversation in which congresspeople spoke with children from a war-torn area in Iraq on the importance of the bill. Global Citizens took over 50,000 actions in support of the legislation. Global Citizen also joined partners like the Global Campaign for Education US Chapter, ONE, RESULTS, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, and many others for meetings in Congress to help build support for the legislation. It was all this hard work that enabled Global Citizen to create over 15 champions from Congress for the READ Act.

Indeed, Rep. Lowey thanked Global Citizens for all their efforts from the stage during Global Citizen Week:

“This bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation that I’ve worked on in my career, but I couldn’t have done this without Global Citizens,” she said in her first public speech on the passing of the Act. “Supporters like you took over 50,000 actions in support of the READ Act. Your tweets, calls, and petitions encouraged other members of congress to cosponsor my legislation.”

According to the World Bank, every year of education reduces the risk of conflict by 20%. Which means that the READ Act will not just brighten the futures of the children it reaches, it will make the planet we share a safer, fairer one for all.

“Simply put, by putting education at the center of our efforts, this bill moves us further down the path to building the world we want for ourselves and for future generations," Rep. Lowey said.

Thank you to each and everyone one of you who have made this possible, proving that persistence in the face of poverty will always win.