The Global Platform for Syrian Students is a non-profit multi-stakeholders organisation, founded in November 2013, by Jorge Sampaio, former President of Portugal, with the support of a core group of institutional partners, namely the Council of Europe, the League of Arab States, the International Organization of Migrations (IOM) and the Institute of International Education (IIE).
This initiative is unique in that it effectively brings together the efforts and the contributions of the various stakeholders willing to back an emergency mechanism to support Syrian students: governments, international and regional organisations, donor agencies, universities, foundations, NGOs of different cultural backgrounds and faith-based organizations, the private sector and individuals. Through a Network of Partners, an Academic Consortium, and a Special Emergency Fund, the Global Platform for Syrian Students works in a collaborative way.
This programme entered into its operational phase in March 2014, when Syrian college students received a rare lifeline. A humanitarian rescue operation – organized by the Global Platform with the support of the Portuguese Government – allowed 45 Syrian students selected out of 1,700 candidates to resume their university studies under an emergency scholarship program, providing a comprehensive integrated “higher education care” services package.
Although proving to be a very effective and low-cost model, a lack of funding has left another 700 Syrian students without scholarships they need to continue their studies in spite of having secured their admission at University with tuition fee waivers. Some additional 50 Syrian Students have joined this programme for the 2014-2015 Academic Year and 40 Syrian Students will very soon start the Academic Year 2015 - 2016 in Portugal.
All people have a right to education, and those affected by emergencies, be it because of man-made conflicts or natural disasters, are no exception. Further to this rights-based approach, there is a growing body of evidence on education’s life-saving and life-sustaining role in particular by contributing to the self-reliance of young people and communities.
The Global Platform for Syrian Students is underpinned by this two-fold approach. It is shaped by the strong conviction that education mitigates the psychosocial impact of conflict and disasters by providing a sense of normally, stability, structure and hope for the future. It recognizes that higher education plays a unique role in the context of emergencies as it produces the leaders and skilled workforce that countries need to move forward, in particular after crisis and conflict.
As the conflict in Syria has triggered the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since World War II, the Global Platform for Syrian Students aims to contribute to respond to this catastrophe that impacts all neighbouring countries, by focusing on Higher Education needs, a very much neglected area of humanitarian intervention by the international community.
The primary mission of the Global Platform is to provide access to higher education in safe haven countries throughout the world to Syrian students affected by the war. The Global Platform is an international endeavour to provide emergency scholarships to Syrian students and enable them to acquire professional qualifications. Furthermore, it also aims at forging collective political will and to mobilise concerted action aimed at promoting Higher Education in Emergencies at large and to place it high on the international agenda.
The Global Platform for Syrian Students aims at providing access to education in safe haven countries through the world. It offers a comprehensive, integrated higher education services package to Syrian students who are selected and awarded a scholarship.
The Global Platform for Syrian Students joins other on-going efforts to create higher education opportunities for Syrians affected by the war, thus avoiding the loss of a generation of university graduates. It builds upon successful experiences developed by other organizations, such as the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative Fund (DAFI), implemented by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the programs to help students and scholars under threat worldwide, established by the Institute of International Education (IIE), a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas.
From an organizational point of view, the Global Platform for Syrian Students is innovative in two main ways. On the one hand, it benefits from its wide network of partners developing a very active and permanent cooperation through networking solutions. On the other hand, it has a central “bureau” embedded in the institutional office of former President Jorge Sampaio that is fully staffed and equipped at zero cost for the Global Platform.
As a multi-stakeholders initiative, the Global Platform has an international Advisory Board comprising representatives of the League of Arab States and of the Council of Europe and a number of eminent personalities such as Kerstin Eliasson, former Secretary of State for Education, Sweden; HRH Princess Rym Ali, President of the Jordan Media Institute and Richard Branson, CEO Virgin Group.
Global Platform for Syrian Students, Board members, December 2013
As a NGO, part of the non-profit sector, the Global Platform for Syrian Students is organized, private, non-profit distributing, self-governing and voluntary. According to its statutes, the governance bodies of the Global Platform are:
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Chairman: Jorge Fernando Branco de Sampaio, former President of Portugal
Vice-President: Maria Manuela Dias Ferreira Leite, former Minister of Education and former Finance Minister
Treasurer: Joaquim Cavaqueiro Mestre, former CEO
Secretary General: Helena Gilda Moreira Freire de Morais Barroco, diplomat
Ana Maria Dias Bettencourt, former President of the National Board on Education
José César Paulouro das Neves, Ambassador
Maria Leonor Couceiro Pizarro Beleza de Mendonça Tavares, former Health Minister, Chairman of the Champalimaud Foundation
President: Luís Manuel Gonçalves Marques Mendes, former Minister, lawyer
Vice-President: Gonçalo Ferreira Gomes Margalho Carrilho, lawyer
Ordinary members: António Manuel Canastreiro Franco, Ambassador
President: Carlos Augusto Pulido Valente Monjardino, Chair of the Oriente Foundation
Vice-President: Mário Henrique de Almeida Santos David, former MP
Secretary: André Filipe Salvado e Machado, junior lawyer
The “Emergency Scholarship program” is managed by a coordinator/director and is supported by a small dedicated secretariat team.