Washington, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation (H.R. 2408) that seeks to protect girls’ access to education in vulnerable settings.

On the House floor prior to the vote, Chairman Royce delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):

“I want to recognize Congressman Steve Chabot and Congresswoman Robin Kelly on the Foreign Affairs Committee for their work on this important issue of protecting girls’ access to education, especially in vulnerable settings.

We all know that education is a critical driver of economic growth, social mobility, and overall stability. As we confront an increasing number of conflicts worldwide, education must remain a key component of U.S. foreign assistance.

Around the world today, more than 27 million children are out of school in conflict zones. Half of all children in refugee camps do not have access to primary education. With many recent conflicts lasting well over a decade, we are now seeing entire generations of children failing to receive even the most basic education. And even if they are eventually able to return home, they carry back those deficits, which last a lifetime. This is a humanitarian crisis with strategic implications.

In Syria, an estimated four million children are out of school, in an environment warped by constant violence. Refugee children outside of Syria are placing tremendous strain on the education systems of countries like Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. As we have seen in crisis situations around the world, the lack of stable educational opportunities makes children more vulnerable to exploitation and radicalization.

Girls face unique barriers to education in conflict zones. In conflict-affected countries, girls are two-and-a-half times more likely than boys to be out of school. They frequently encounter cultural barriers that prevent them from seeking an education, and they often lack safe routes to and from school. Promoting girls’ access to education reduces their risk of falling victim to gender-based violence, early marriage, and human trafficking. It’s also the just thing to do.

H.R. 2408, the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education Act, authorizes the State Department and USAID to enhance existing education programs for displaced children, especially girls. The bill calls on the State Department and USAID to coordinate efforts with the private sector, civil society groups, and multilateral organizations to collect relevant data to improve the effectiveness of those programs. Finally, the bill would require that the State Department and USAID include data on education programs for displaced children in any report to Congress on disaster relief and recovery efforts.

We must strengthen the role of education in humanitarian assistance. Refugees and other displaced persons live on the knife-edge of despair. Without access to education, children in conflict areas – especially girls – are more exposed to violence, exploitation, and even radicalization. By helping to realize their innate potential, education gives them hope for today, and critical skills for tomorrow, so that they can contribute to their homes, their communities, and the next generation.

I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.”