Gordon Brown: donors must act now on education fund or face ‘global crisis’

Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies, Gordon Brown

Syrian refugee children in a Lebanese classroom draw what a safe school means to them during a visit by former British ambassador Tom Fletcher Picture: A World at School/Tabitha Ross


International leaders must take urgent action to deliver education to millions of children in humanitarian emergencies – or face a “full-blown global crisis” that will haunt the world for three generations.

That was the stark warning from Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, as he challenged donors to ensure the new Education Cannot Wait fund is successful.

He gave more details of the fund, which will be officially launched at the first World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey on May 23 and 24.

Mr Brown said at a UN briefing yesterday the goal is for more than 100 leading countries, companies and philanthropists to join forces to create a “major breakthrough”’ in the fight to provide education for millions of children displaced by conflicts and natural disasters.

The Education Cannot Wait fund aims to raise $3.85 billion across the next five years. The education envoy announced he has approved a new “giving pledge” for billionaires to make a collective contribution.

More than 60 businesses have already agreed to take part alongside many of the world’s top aid donors. Individual philanthropists have also been approached.

Mr Brown said the fund could be the only chance to save a generation lost to war, child marriage, forced labour and recruiters for violent extremism.

He added: “It is designed to cater for the needs of 30 million displaced girls and boys, the largest population of girls and boys uprooted since 1945 – 20 million of whom have no choice at the moment and are unable to go to school.

Children in Nepal have missed out on schooling after the earthquake last year Picture: A World at School/Lauren Ciell

“This fund will be unique in many different ways. We will be the first to bridge the gap between humanitarian aid and development aid.

“At present education falls through the net. Most humanitarian aid goes – as you would expect – to food and shelter, and development aid is long-term and not geared to an emergency.”

Mr Brown unveiled support for the fund from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and a number of world leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi and Graça Machel.

The Education Cannot Wait fund will build on the initiative to get one million Syrian refugees into school in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

But it will also help in Nepal, where 900,000 children are out of school because of the earthquake emergency, in South Sudan where one-third of children are denied schooling and in Nigeria where Boko Haram has closed 5000 schools. 

Amel Karboul, a member of the Education Commission on funding, said: “I hope this will be but the first achievement in the march towards making education disruptions during emergencies a thing of the past. And I hope the international community will join us in seeing this promise come to fruition.”

Justin van Fleet, Director of the Education Commission, said: “Education Cannot Wait will be a new, historic fund to deliver education in emergencies and realise the long-awaited promise for children and youth impacted by crises and conflict.

“The ambitious but achievable target of $3.85 billion over the next five years will be aimed squarely at bucking the trend in the growing number of refugees, displaced persons and children locked out of opportunity during circumstances beyond their control – whether it be earthquakes, floods, outbreaks or armed conflict.”

You can tell world leaders they must commit to make the fund work – sign the #SafeSchools petition, which will be handed in at the World Humanitarian Summit.

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