'"Emergency situations" affecting education are defined as all situations in which man-made or natural disasters destroy, within a short period of time, the usual conditions of life, care and education facilities for children and therefore disrupt, deny, hinder progress or delay the realisation of the right to education. Such situations can be caused by, inter alia, armed conflicts - both international, including military occupation, and non-international, post-conflict situations, and all types of natural disasters' (Report of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on its General Discussion on the Right of the Child to Education in Emergencies Situation, 2008).

Education is a human right and should be guaranteed and protected for all people, at all times. However, in emergencies states often encounter difficulties in guaranteeing and protecting people’s human rights particularly the rights of members of already marginalised groups, such as persons with disabilities. This may be due to loss of power and the lawlessness that ensues, the destruction of infrastructure or because of the redirection of resources. In any case, emergencies lead to an increased likelihood that the right to education will be violated. It is therefore important that international law and the international community act to minimise and ameliorate the harmful effects of emergency situations.

In emergencies, human rights law applies in all contexts; people do not lose their human rights because of conflict, famine or natural disasters. However, depending on the nature of the emergency, different regimes of international law also apply. Vis-à-vis the right to education these are: international human rights law, international humanitarian law (or the law of armed conflict), international refugee law and international criminal law.

(See accordions below for more information, also see Protecting Education in Insecurity and Armed conflict: An International Law Handbook for a comprehensive overview of applicable law during conflict and insecurity.)