Leaders push bold education vision at week of talks in Washington

Children in conflicts, Education funding, Education in emergencies, Gordon Brown

Selamawit Bekele, one of A World at School’s Global Youth Ambassadors, with UN education envoy Gordon Brown at the Champions Group meeting in Washington


Real change isn’t always obvious. It often doesn’t grab the headlines or happen in the full public glare.

The past few days have been like that. It’s been a hugely important period in the drive to get every child into school and learning.

It all happened in Washington, DC – the setting for the 2016 Spring Meetings convened by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The agenda included the global economy and international development – but education and early childhood development pushed their way forward thanks to a series of side events featuring some of the biggest movers and shakers in those fields.

They included five former prime ministers and presidents and three Nobel Prize winners meeting at the Education Commission. More than 100 leaders of business, development, foundations and philanthropy getting together at a Global Business Coalition for Education event. And the influential Champions Group continuing their work to create a platform to fund and co-ordinate education in emergencies.

The Education Commission meets in Washington on April 15

Ben Hewitt, Campaigns and Communications Director for A World at School, said: “More than 10 million people around the world signed the #UpForSchool Petition, calling on world leaders to get every child in school, no matter who they are or the situation they find themselves.

“We are seeing leaders respond to this call to action – but we need to make sure they deliver ambitious action and funding to reach every child. This must include the most marginalised and excluded girls and boys, those fleeing conflict and forced out of school due to natural disasters.

“Campaigners around the world are watching these conversations closely – it is time to move the rhetoric into action.”


The Education Commission, set up to examine how to reverse the lack of financing for education around the world and inspire action, boasts an impressive line-up.

It met on April 13 and discussed how to be bold and innovative – setting the outcomes and then working backwards to decide the actions.

Singing superstar and education campaigner Shakira urged young people to get involved with the commission’s work by entering its video competition.

The commission has a Youth Panel, which includes four of A World at School’s Global Youth Ambassadors. They include Benedict Joson, originally from the Philippines and now living in New York City, who reepsented the panel at the commission meeting in Washington.

He said: “Prompts from the team and Commission Chair Gordon Brown produced thought-provoking discussions on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ – what is the mission and goal of the Commission and how will we achieve them.”

Benedict said the Youth Panel is collaborating with A World at School and other organisations to inspire grassroots and high-level discussions on education funding. Read Benedict’s blog about the Youth Panel.

The commission, whose full title is the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, also held talks with global finance ministers on April 15.



Justin van Fleet is Director of the commission. In a blog for the Huffington Post, he wrote: “When young people and their families see opportunities for a better future, the allures of extremism, risks of unemployment or fears of inequality quickly evaporate.

“When confronted by global challenges, we must be the champions of solutions. All of this is nothing without a cohort of campaigners unafraid to rock the boat until education becomes the bridge to prosperity for every child. The window of opportunity for action is open. We must seize it.”


The April 14 breakfast event titled Stronger Investments, Greater Impact heard about new ways of financing, examples of successful partnerships and what still needs to be done to help children get a quality education.

Speakers included Kristalina Georgieva, Vice-President of the European Commission; Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank; Peter Laugharn, President of the Hilton Foundation; Eric Postel, Associate Administrator for USAid; and Matata Ponyo Mapon, Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Peter Laugharn addresses the event Picture: © Lana Wong/EC

Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the Education Commission, spoke passionately about the urgent need for an platform to fund education in emergencies such as conflicts and natural disasters.

Read our live blog from the event.


Campaigners have been calling for urgent funding to go to education in emergencies. The Champions Group, consisting of UNICEF Chief Executive Anthony Lake; Julia Gillard, Board Chair of the Global Partnership for Education; and Gordon Brown met to oversee the work to create a platform to fund and co-ordinate education in emergencies.

This fund is vital, as more than 80 million children are out of school because of crises such as conflicts and natural disasters. The group met on April 15 to discuss progress towards launching the platform at the World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey next month.

Selamawit with Anthony Lake of UNICEF at Champions Group

Selamawit Bekele, one of A World at School’s Global Youth Ambassadors, handed in the #SafeSchools petition – a call to action signed by thousands of people and more than 50 of the world’s leading charities

It said the international community must commit to a new education in emergencies platform when they meet at the Istanbul summit.


Queen Rania of Jordan emphasised the urgent need for a more sustainable humanitarian response to the global refugee crisis.

In a speech on April 15 at the Spring Meetings Session on Forced Displacement, she said her country had taken in 1.3 million Syrian refugees and had committed to ensuring all the children get access to education by next school year.

The queen said Jordan was feeling the strain and needed more help from the international community. She added that “with classrooms overflowing and teachers working double shifts, the quality of education is being compromised” for both Jordanian and Syrian children.


The World Bank announced on April 13  at the Let Girls Learn event it would invest $2.5 billion over five years in education projects that directly benefit adolescent girls. First Lady Michelle Obama said: “The evidence is very clear: when we invest in girls’ education and we embrace women in our workforce, that doesn’t just benefit them, it benefits all of us.”


On April 14, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and UNICEF’s Anthony Lake called on world leaders to act quickly and invest wisely in ECD and nutrition programmes to reach children before primary school age.

And the Hilton Foundation continued to show leadership on ECD by highlighting a $50 million early learning initiative in eastern and southern Africa.

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