World Humanitarian Summit: Education Cannot Wait fund aims to help 13m children

Children in conflicts, Education funding, Education in emergencies

After months of campaigning, a new fund to help provide education for millions of children and youth affected by humanitarian emergencies was officially launched today.

The Education Cannot Wait fund was unveiled by global and national organisations at the historic World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey.

One in four of the world’s school-age children – nearly 500 million – live in countries affected by crises such as conflicts, natural disasters and disease outbreaks. About 75 million of them are either already missing out on their education, receiving poor quality schooling or at risk of dropping out of school altogether.

Education Cannot Wait aims to reach more than 13.6 million children and youth living in crisis situations with quality education over the next five years and 75 million by 2030.

It was announced during a special session at the summit, chaired by Gordon Brown – the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity – alongside UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. A group of world leaders will provide strategic direction for the  fund.

Among those who have made financial contributions to the fund so far are Dubai Cares, the European Union, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the United States government.

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Across the world, education systems are being destroyed by violent armed conflict, natural disasters and health emergencies, robbing children of the skills they need to build safe, strong communities and economies when they reach adulthood. 

On average less than 2% of humanitarian aid goes towards funding education. Also, education systems equipped to cope with protracted crises cannot be built on the foundations of short-term – and unpredictable – appeals.

Nigerian teacher at a UNICEF-supported safe space in Dalori camp, Borno state Picture: UNICEF/Esiebo

Education Cannot Wait, which has a funding target of $3.85 billion over five years, aims to bridge the gap between humanitarian interventions during crises and long-term development afterwards, through predictable funding.

Gordon Brown said: “Action now has to happen urgently because of the sheer scale of numbers of children impacted. These young people are missing out on schooling and this is becoming a full-blown global crisis that will haunt the world for generations.”

Gayle Smith, Administrator of the US Agency for International Development, said: “There is an urgent need to ensure that kids who are forced into refuge are not denied an education.

“Education Cannot Wait has the potential to chart the path forward by developing the tools we need to deliver education and offers the promise of unlocking new sources of funding.”

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The fund launch was welcomed by UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening, who said: “Today 37 million children living through conflicts or crises are out of school. A generation of young people is missing out on education, being cheated out of its future, and it is no foundation for a peaceful and stable future. 

“Their education cannot wait – and neither should our support. The UK is leading efforts to respond to this global challenge, helping to set up the No Lost Generation Initiative with UNICEF and partners to educate Syrian refugee children – but they are just some of the millions of children affected worldwide.”

Julia Gillard, Chair of the Global Partnership for Education, said the fund will  help to make the crucial link between humanitarian aid and long-term development.

She added: “GPE strongly supports Education Cannot Wait and is committed to make it a success so children can continue going to school during times of conflict, emergencies and protracted crises.”

Syrian primary school is damaged by fighting at Hujjaira in Rural Damascus PICTURE: UNICEF/Abdulaziz

Two other countries that have been leading lights in the struggle to create an education in emergencies fund are Norway and the Netherlands.

Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende said: 

“This is the right initiative at the right time. We must step up our efforts to deliver quality education to children and youth in conflict zones and crises. We cannot afford a future with millions of children without education.”

Lilianne Ploumen, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, said the launch could not be more timely, with 75 million children denied their right to an education by crises. He added: “Education is crucial if we want to give these children a future.”

Anthony Lake, Executive Director of the UN children’s agency UNICEF, said: “Children don’t need education even in emergencies; they need education especially in emergencies.

“Without an education, how will they gain the knowledge and skills to chart their own futures – and to someday lend their hands to building more peaceful, stable futures for their societies?

“And how can we hope to reach our global development goals for education if we don’t focus on children trapped in humanitarian emergencies – who represent almost half of all children out of school today?” 

The Global Business Coalition for Education also announced $100 million of backing from the private sector for Education Cannot Wait today.

The world leaders who will provide strategic direction for the fund include:

Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Cares; Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and Francophonie, Canada; Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO; Børge Brende, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway; Dean Brooks, Director of the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies; Julia Gillard, Chair, Global Partnership for Education; Fillippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development, United Kingdom; Former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete; Anthony Lake, Executive Director, UNICEF; Elias Bou Saab, Minister of Education, Lebanon; Gayle Smith, Administrator, United States Agency for International Development; and Tove Wang, Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children Norway.

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