Building peace in the minds of men and women

Education: Put Financing at the Top

UNESCO Director-General Joins Appeal for Increased Financing by Global Partnership for Education

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova called upon countries to renew their commitment to education as the “most powerful transformational force for dignity and sustainability” at the opening of the Global Partnership for Education’s Second Replenishment Pledging Conference in Brussels, on 26 June 2014.

“The situation is daunting but we can turn it around. Experience shows progress needs political will, the right policies and resources. From across the world, Ministers of Education have come here to reaffirm their commitment to expand domestic financing for education. Our duty is to match this. It is a matter of political credibility – we will not be legitimate in negotiating the post-2015 agenda if we cannot hold the promises on Education for All made in 2000.”

The Conference, co-hosted with the EU and attended by some 50 ministers, aims to raise $3.5 billion over three years to support the schooling of 29 million children in 66 low-income countries.

At the opening, the European Commissioner for Development Mr Andris Piebalgs announced that that the EU would more than double its pledge to the GPE, while Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Borge Brende stated at a later session that his country would double resources for education in the next four years.

Julia Gillard, Chair of the GPE, affirmed that developing countries were expected to commit an additional $16 billion over three years, sending a “tremendous signal” to donor countries. The Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr Augustin Ponyo, provided an illustration, noting that education now accounts for 16% of the national budget, up from 6% in 2005. From Burkina Faso, Education Minister Koumba Bolly Barry said that the country’s doubling of enrolment rates in a decade was due, first and foremost, to a strong political commitment, backed by GPE support. UN Special Envoy Gordon Brown urged countries to step up their pledges to the GPE, describing education as the “civil rights struggle of our generation.”

New global out-of-school figures released on the day of the conference by UNESCO show that 58 million children aged 6 to 11 are still out of school and that around 43% are unlikely ever to set foot in a classroom on current trends.

At a special session on “Education Cannot Wait,” focusing on emergencies, Ms Bokova asserted that “conflict remains the most challenging barrier to education.

“Generations are being lost – this is about their rights and dignity, about the development of their societies, and fundamentally about security.”

She lamented that education accounts only for 2% of humanitarian aid and that no sector has a smaller share of humanitarian appeals actually funded and appealed for the protection of schools and education in situations of conflict. 

Norway’s Foreign Minister stressed that “the most important issue is us to make sure that we have no lost generation in education” and called for “less spending on defense and more on children’s education and health.” Ms Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, noted that “fragility in the world is growing” and stressed the importance of addressing education in large-scale emergencies as the best way to fight radicalization, referring to the “No Lost Generation Initiative” for the Syria crisis and “Children of Peace” initiative, funded by EU Nobel Peace prize funds. The UNICEF representative from the Central African Republic stated that only 0.77% of humanitarian aid so far had been allocated to education and rang the alarm on children with no educational opportunities being recruited by armed groups.

Ms Bokova also held meetings with the EU Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, and the incoming Senior Director of Education Global Practice of the World Bank Group, Ms Claudia Costin.