February 19, 2019

Gordon Brown: new funding needed urgently to give education and hope to millions of children

Children in Afghanistan will benefit from an Education Cannot Wait programme

Photo credit: Education Cannot Wait

Announcing education aid in war-torn countries, the UN envoy said crises are turning too many young people into "the invisible generation".

New funding is needed urgently to prevent millions of children and youth being left without education and hope, UN envoy Gordon Brown warned today.

Escalating crises in several parts of the world have contributed to more than 30 million children being displaced and 75 million having their education disrupted.

"These young people are no longer only the lost generation, they are the invisible generation," said Brown, who is the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education.

"A lost generation is not only identified by empty classrooms, silent playgrounds and short, unmarked graves. A lost generation is one where hope dies in those who live."

He spoke about the plight of young refugees as he appealed for new funding for education in emergencies. Brown, speaking at the UN headquarters in New York, said two new programmes will be announced this month to help children who are out of school because of conflicts and disasters.

Both will be launched by Education Cannot Wait (ECW) - the fund to deliver education during humanitarian emergencies that was established after campaigning by Theirworld and our Global Youth Ambassadors.

Schools should be safe places where children can learn free from conflict, violence and fear. But Theirworld's recent report Safe Schools: The Hidden Crisis projected that 620 million girls and boys – nearly 40% of all school-age children worldwide - will live in countries where their education is at risk from environmental threats, war or violence by 2030.

As part of Theirworld's #WriteTheWrong campaign, our supporters will be working to ensure more funding goes to education in emergencies. 

One of Education Cannot Wait's new programmes will be for safe and reliable education for 500,000 children in Afghanistan, including 325,000 girls. 

Internally displaced children take part in activities at a child-friendly space at Elevage camp in Bambari, Central African Republic

Photo credit: UNICEF / Gilbertson

It will also work with the government and partners in the Central African Republic to start a three-year education response programme to reach 900,000 children – half of them girls. Conflict and violence has left 500,000 children in the CAR out of school.

ECW aims to harness a total of $1.8 billion in education financing by 2021. Its current investments will soon reach 2.5 million children.

Brown said the urgent need for action is due to several escalating crises. They include:

  • Three million people leaving Venezuela for neighbouring countries because of the economic situation
  • 500,000 children out of school due to conflict and violence in the Central African Republic (CAR)
  • Afghanistan, where there are 3.7 million out-of-school children and 1,000 schools need to be reopened
  • The ongoing refugee crises as result of the Rohingya, Syrian and South Sudanese conflicts

Brown said: “I am here today to speak up for the 99% of the world’s young refugees – the lost generation who are now becoming, to us, the invisible generation – who will never get a place in college or in higher education. 

"And to speak for the 80% of refugee and displaced teenagers who will never get a secondary education."

The UN envoy called for an expansion of Education Cannot Wait and support for the International Finance Facility for Education, which is designed to serve the 700 million children and youth living in lower-middle-income countries.

Brown said: "The facility is advancing rapidly with a high-level event scheduled in April, at which prospective donors will agree to constitute the new $10 billion fund this year."

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One in five children don't have access to an education and are left vulnerable to poverty, abuse, slavery and human trafficking. 

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