06/17/2015 05:27 EDT | Updated 06/17/2016 05:59 EDT

Educating Young Refugees Is a Path to Sustainable International Development

In this Wednesday July 9, 2014 photo, Iraqi refugee children from Mosul stay at a temporary camp for refugees who fled from Mosul and other towns outside Irbil, northern Iraq, nearly a month after Islamic militants took over the country's second largest city. The lightning sweep by the insurgents over much of northern and western Iraq the past month has dramatically hiked tensions between the country's Shiite majority and Sunni minority. At the same time, splits have grown between the Shiite-led government in Baghdad and the Kurdish autonomy region in the north. (AP Photo)

By Chris Eaton

On World Refugee Day 2015 (June 20), events around the world recognize the more than 50 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes. It is a day to reflect on the strength and resilience of the millions who have fled their countries and we acknowledge the efforts of individuals and groups who are devoted to supporting refugee populations. Prolonged conflict, war, violence, religious and ethnic persecution, and natural disasters are factors that drive the global refugee crisis and are the cause for severe human suffering and development challenges.


Of the tens of millions displaced, the vast majority are under 35 years of age. Refugee youth face uncertainty for their futures and the future of their countries and communities. World University Service of Canada (WUSC) seeks to provide much-needed support and resources to refugee youth with its mission of creating education, employment, and opportunities for youth around the world.

WUSC's Student Refugee Program (SRP) was developed to address the lack of higher education programs available to refugee youth. To date, the program has sponsored more than 1500 students for enrollment in Canadian universities and colleges with a 92 per cent overall graduation rate. The SRP is the only program in the world that combines post-secondary education with resettlement, demonstrating a successful model for resettlement and integration of refugee youth.

We believe that the success of the program is attributed to the unique youth-to-youth model through which young Canadians sponsor refugee students to their university, college or Cégep. With support from WUSC, students groups, known as local committees, sponsor refugee youth in enrollment in university and provide guidance for orientation and integration into the community. SRP students have the academic and personal resources to become active citizens of Canadian society; some return to their home countries to employ their education to support governance and development.

WUSC's programs, such as the SRP, aim to promote international development for an equitable and sustainable world. Access to quality education is essential to this aim and enables refugee youth to building strong communities and effect positive social change for future generations.

The WUSC program commends the efforts of international, national and local entities that are working to provide support to the millions who have been forced from their homes. With a refugee population that is growing in size and need, a collective global effort must address long-term and sustainable solutions for the problems faced by displaced persons. We encourage Canadian organizations and society groups to employ education in their programs and initiatives as it largely contributes in constructing not only successful resettlements and integrations, but also better future for young refugees to have access to opportunities. At WUSC, we believe that promoting education and resettlement opportunities for refugee youth is a priority that will yield long-term benefits for international development.

Chris Eaton is Executive Director of World University Service of Canada (WUSC), an international development NGO based in Ottawa, ON. For more information, visit

The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of CCIC or its members


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