We can Make Impossible Possible: global leaders back $10bn education funding plan

Education Commission Iffed 2
More than 260 million are out of school around the world (Education Commission)

Education funding, Global Youth Ambassadors, Gordon Brown, Right to education, The Education Commission, Theirworld, United Nations General Assembly

Government ministers, donors and development banks all gave support to the innovative International Finance Facility for Education at a UN event.

A bold funding plan to get 200 million children into school took a giant leap forward when it was backed at the United Nations yesterday by world leaders, the business community and international donors.

Crucially, the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) – the single biggest investment in education in history – was supported by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.

“We need innovative tools like the International Finance Facility for Education. Let me be clear – we are completely behind IFFEd,” he told the inspiring Make Impossible Possible event in New York. “We all share a commitment to ensuring every child can learn.”

Many international donors said they are ready to help establish IFFEd, which will unlock $10 billion in new funding for education to plug a financing gap for lower-middle-income countries that no one is currently filling. 

Backing came from the United Kingdom, Norway, Pakistan, Canada, United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands, Denmark and the European Union, as well as from key international development banks.

Theirworld has been campaigning for IFFEd – particularly through the youth-led #MakeImpossiblePossible petition.

Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, set the scene by saying: “Let us remember that the financing gap for education by 2030 is estimated to be $90 billion a year.

Gordon Brown And Graca Machel At Iffed Event At Un

UN education envoy Gordon Brown addresses the event, watched by Graça Machel (Education Commission / Lana Wong)

“Let us remember that if we don’t bridge that gap 800 million children will still not be leaving school without proper qualifications and 260 million will still not be going to school. It cannot be done simply by the old ways.”

Brown is chair of the Education Commission, which proposed IFFEd in its landmark 2016 report The Learning Generation.

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

After the voice of civil society was heard through youth representatives, she added: “We heard from young people across the world, who sent in millions of signatures asking us to take urgent action so that they have greater opportunities to enjoy what are their rights and pursue their dreams.”

Here is what some of the other key speakers had to say about IFFEd and how we can Make Impossible Possible…

Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, said“We agree with the recommendations of the Learning Generation report. IFFEd has the potential … to bring a coherent offer to countries.

“My challenge today is to have a final design recommendation on the table by the end of November. The UK stands ready to support this process and its important work. Let’s get it done.”

Nikolai Astrup, International Development Minister for Norway, said his country would consider a commitment to be a guarantor for IFFEd or in terms of financial help.

Penny Mordaunt And Reem Al Hashimy At Iffed Event

(Education Commission / Lana Wong)

Reem Al Hashimy, the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of State for International Cooperation, said: “There is a need and an urgency to embrace innovative forms of financing. We are committed to pushing forward the design and establishment of this new facility.”

Arthur Peter Mutharika, President of Malawi, said“IFFEd is a sure means to help our country to ensure outcomes in education.” 

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.”

Stefano Manservisi, Director General for International Cooperation and Development, European Commission, said: “We are convinced that the facility could play a very important role in addressing the gap in education finances. We are ready to step in with concrete funds to set up operations and are committed to give money in 2019 and 2020.”

Sigrid Kaag, Foreign Trade and Development Co-operation Minister for the Netherlands, said: “What we are keen to do is work with you to identify the technical issues that need to be overcome. We aim to look at a 15 to 20-year window for this mechanism to deliver on the promise and be truly innovative.”

Denmark is very supportive of new and innovative ways to finance education. I can pledge that we are ready to continue this journey as you move from design to delivery. Martin Bille Hermann, Development Secretary for Denmark

Diane Jacovella, Deputy Minister of International Development for Canada, said: “We encourage everyone to continue to design the mechanism and we call on stakeholders and governments to work together.”

Sir Suma Chakrabarti, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said: “We are very close to having a very workable facility.”

Woochong Um, Director General, Sustainable Development and Climate Change, for the Asian Development Bank, said: “We have now moved education up to our number one priority – so we have to do this.”

Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Chair of the Development Assistance Committee, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee, said: “This is hugely important. We need an ecosystem that delivers for us. You have a very good point of departure here.”

Marcelo Cabrol, Manager of the Social Sector, Inter-American Development Bank, said: “We are ready to support you in the final design and hopefully the launch of the facility next year.”

Gya Omotoke Olowo And Mohamed Sidibay At Iffed Event

Global Youth Ambassador Omotoke Olowo and Mohamed Sidibay (Education Commission / Lana Wong)

Omar Abdi, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, said: “UNICEF welcomes IFFED’s focus on results, efficiency and systems strengthening.”

Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO, said: “We are very keen to be part of this new initiative. We are building an ecosystem and we are strongly committed to continuing a strong partnership.”

Julia Gillard, Board Chair of the Global Partnership for Education, said: “The GPE wants to work with IFFEd and with Education Cannot Wait. There are clear complementarities.”

Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, said: “We see IFFEd as a critical solution to the work we do in crisis to bridge from the humanitarian to the development sides. This is the new way of working in the 21st century.”

David Boutcher, Partner of law firm Reed Smith, said his company and Goldman Sachs were committed to giving pro bono legal help to set up IFFEd and get credit ratings.

The Make Impossible Possible event also featured civil society, who allowed the voices of young people to be heard. They included Omotoke Olowo, a Global Youth Ambassador from Nigeria for Theirworld’s A World at School movement.

She said: “We hope that the leaders that have come here today are ready to take decisive action and commit to doing something bold to show that we really do care about the promises we made to children – the marginalised, the disabled, the refugees.”

Global Youth Ambassadors Hold Up Iffed Petition Books

(Education Commission / Lana Wong)

Another youth voice was Mohamed Sidibay, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone and member of the Youth Panel for the Education Commission.

He said: “My job as an activist and a survivor is not to reinvent the wheel but rather spin the wheel in fast forward towards progress – so that what happened to me cannot and will not happen.

Graça Machel – campaigner for children’s and women’s rights and a member of the Education Commission – said: “IFFED will be the single largest investment in human capital in history.

“I am happy that education is putting forward bold proposals focused on investing in results, hand in hand with government and multiplying our resources to go further and do better.”

She also announced that young people representing Theirworld, Avaaz, Global Citizen, BRAC and ITA were at the meeting to present to world leaders the signatures of nearly two million people from across the globe –  demanding action to set up IFFEd.

She added: “We cannot let down the young people who are placing their trust in us. We have simply to take this opportunity to deliver quality, inclusive and equitable education for every girl and every boy. Let us make the impossible possible.”

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