International Finance Facility for Education

Transformative multi-billion education financing

After years of campaigning, consultation and research by Theirworld alongside other education experts and partners, world leaders launched the International Finance Facility for Education at Transforming Education Summit in New York in September, 2022. The new fund will unlock billions of dollars for the education of excluded and marginalised children.

Around the world, education is starved of funding. But the crisis is particularly acute in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), which are home to 80% of the world’s children. Two-thirds of 10-year-olds in these countries cannot read a simple text.

The problem is particularly pronounced in these countries because LMICs – including India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Indonesia – fall into a “missing middle”: as they develop, they lose access to funds designed for developing countries.

LIMC countries increase their tax yield as their economies grow but still require external funding to provide education to every child. But funding is not increasing as aid budgets have become increasingly stretched or reduced.

Urgent action is needed to support children in LMICs and prevent those out of school falling into child labour, early marriage, and extreme poverty. These are also the countries carrying the heaviest burden of supporting refugee children settled in their countries.


of 10-year-olds in these countries cannot read a simple text

IFFEd will address education funding in “missing middle” countries  

The International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) is a ground-breaking fund that is specifically designed to create new, affordable pools of funding for LMICs.   

It complements other funding mechanisms and bodies such as the Global Partnership for Education (focused on the poorest countries) and Education Cannot Wait (focused on education in humanitarian crisis). 

It uses a mixture of guarantees and donor grants to provide affordable education financing for governments, and has a multiplying effect on donor contributions, unlocking up to $7 for every dollar paid into the fund. 

This innovative way of working will allow IFFEd to unlock at least $10 billion in new education funding over the next five years.  

Theirworld kicks off the campaign for IFFEd in 2016  

World leaders launched IFFEd at the Transforming Education Summit in New York. This was the result of years of campaigning, research and consultations by Theirworld, education experts, partner organisationsand our Global Youth Ambassadors.  

Our campaign began in 2016, when the idea was first proposed in the Education Commission’s major 2016 report, The Learning Generation, led by Liesbet Steer, the Commission’s Executive Director,  and Theirworld President Justin van Fleet, then Director of the Education Commission. A major group of experts and leaders contributed to this landmark study, including Gordon Brown, the former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown; José Manuel Barroso, the former President of the European Commission; and Julia Gillard, the former Prime Minister of Australia; Theo Sowa, the former CEO of the African Women’s Development Fund and Theirworld Trustee; Graça Machel. the international rights advocate and former Mozambique education minister; Jakaya Kikwete, the former President of Tanzania, and others. 

Pressure mounts on world leaders to set up the new fund 

 In 2017, Theirworld brought together a coalition of education charities, civil society organisations and educaiton networks to call on world leaders to set up a fund.  In a joint letter, they asked the G20 countries to make education financing a top priority – by calling on the World Bank, regional development banks and donors to establish IFFEd. 

 “A transformational shift is needed in the way we invest in education systems if we want a safe, secure and prosperous future for the next generation,” said the letter, which Ben Hewitt, Theirworld’s Head of Campaigns, delivered to Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.  

Alongside Theirworld, the letter was signed by ANCEFA, Avaaz, Camfed, FinnChurchAid, Freedom United, Global Citizen, Global Education Monitoring Report, International Rescue Committee, Islamic Relief, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, Malala Fund, ONE, Save the Children, SHOFCO, Plan International, Right to Play, University of Arizona, VSO, World Vision and Youth Envision. 

Global Citizen and Avaaz back the call for IFFEd  

Just a few months later, in July 2017, Global Citizen backed the call for IFFEd at the first-ever Global Citizen Festival Hamburg in 2017.  

It said: “Simply put, there are three education platforms that Global Citizens have been supporting to achieve the vision of a quality education for all: the Global Partnership for Education, Education Cannot Wait, and a new International Finance Facility for Education that, if fully funded, would be able to provide resources for 264 million children who are currently out of school.” 

At the same time global campaign network Avaaz also took up the campaign mobilising thousands of people in support around the world. 

In 2018, plans for IFFEd took a giant leap forward when it was backed at the United Nations by world leaders, the business community and international donors. Speaking at the Make Impossible Possible event, Shafqat Mahmood, Education Minister for Pakistan, said: “We fully support the creation of IFFEd and we strongly believe that an investment in the facility is an investment in the future.” 

Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said: “IFFEd can help us to uphold our commitments to equitable and inclusive quality education for all.” 

Theirworld Global Youth Ambassadors presented a petition to the United Nations Secretary General  

We held consultations with civil society partners and NGOs to help shape the facility and then worked together to mobilise a campaign to support it.  We galvanised our supporters and delivered a petition, signed by 1.5 million people from all over the world, to the United Nations calling on leaders to invest in the Facility. One of our GYAs from Pakistan gathered more than 20,000 signatures, including a thumb print from a child who could not sign their name. 

Theirworld Global Youth Ambassadors, who met with UN Secretary General António Guterres, said: “On behalf of 1.5 million young people, we present the IFFEd petition. The message from all the youth is to make the impossible possible.”  

After the Global Youth Ambassadors met Guterres, UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown gave a briefing on the need to establish IFFEd.   

Brown said: “The International Finance Facility for Education, that the Secretary-General has endorsed today, has the support of the United Nations, the World Bank and the Regional Development Banks. It is backed by the addition today of 1.5 million signatures to our already 10-million strong petition. Now 11.5 million young people are demanding change.” 

Throughout the pandemic, Theirworld worked to support public communications,  campaigning and brand identity for IFFEd.  Theirworld also published the Education Finance Playbook demonstrating how IFFEd could help fill the global education finance gap.  Partners at the Education Commission worked  to make IFFEd ready, engaging with donor governments like the UK, Netherlands, and Sweden, alongside multilateral development banks.  

More than 100 world leaders and economists back call for IFFEd 

As the Transforming Education Summit approached,  more than 100 former presidents, prime ministers and other top government officials signed an open letter, calling for leaders to commit to a bold new education finance plan, to transform the lives of millions of young people.  

Signatories included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister and current UN Special Envoy for Global Education; Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand; Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil; Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi; and Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary-General. 

Theirworld coordinated the #LetMeLearn campaign, taking the views of young people directly to world leaders 

Theirworld’s efforts culminated in our #LetMeLearn campaign, which took the experiences of young people from over 160 countries directly to world leaders at the summit.  Sharing a stage with the UN Secretary-General, our activists demanded urgent action on education funding, and made passionate pleas on behalf of the millions of children around the world locked out of education. 

Donor governments worked together to make IFFEd a reality  

Donor governments – chiefly Sweden, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands – multilateral development banks, foundations and philanthropists have come together to make IFFEd a reality. With an initial commitment of creating $2 billion in funds, the facility has the potential to unlock an additional $10 billion to educate tomorrow’s generation of young people. 

Shehbaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan said: “the new stream of affordable education financing from IFFEd will be crucial to help meet our financing needs to provide an inclusive and quality education for our most vulnerable children and youth.” 

Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, said: “Innovations like the International Finance Facility for Education can help ensure we are getting maximum leverage out of each dollar of education funding. By expanding such funding, this facility will scale the solutions humanity needs to make opportunity universal and sustainable.”  

Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, said: “To truly transform education, we need a fundamental shift. Business as usual will not suffice. This is why the International Finance Facility for Education – IFFEd – is such an exciting development for our future generations. IFFEd has the potential to unlock $10 billion in new resources to support half of the world’s most vulnerable children whose pleas to “Let Me Learn” must be heard.”   

IFFEd’s launch represents a major step forward in the fight to offer every child a place in school. For lower-middle-income countries shut out of affordable education financing IFFEd will be a crucial lifeline.  

At a time when budgets are growing ever tighter, and the world is looking for ways to respond creatively economic setbacks, IFFEd will help developing countries unlock large-scale and long-lasting education change to improve the lives and futures of millions of disadvantaged children.