The fund

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) is the first global movement and fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises.

It was established during the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to help reposition education as a priority on the humanitarian agenda, usher in a more collaborative approach among actors on the ground and foster additional funding to ensure that every crisis-affected child and young person is in school and learning.

Based on the recognition that continuous access to quality learning is a priority for children and families affected by conflicts, natural disasters and displacement and that no organisation can do it alone, ECW comes as a ground-breaking initiative bringing together public and private partners eager to work together differently and mobilise the funding required to deploy immediate and sustainable programmes tailor-made to the educational needs of these children.

ECW’s mandate is articulated around five core functions:

  1. Inspire political commitment so that education is viewed by both governments and funders as a top priority during crises.
  2. Plan and respond collaboratively, with a particular emphasis on enabling humanitarian and development actors to work together on shared objectives.
  3. Generate and disburse additional funding to help close the $8.5 billion funding gap needed to reach 75 million children and youth.
  4. Strengthen capacity to respond to crises, nationally and globally, including the ability to coordinate emergency support.
  5. Improve accountability by developing and sharing knowledge, including collection of more robust data in order to make better-informed investment decisions, and knowledge of what works and does not.

ECW operates a first-of-its kind fund that offers governments, multilateral institutions and the private sector the chance to finance comprehensive education programmes for children affected by conflicts, natural disasters and displacement wherever most needed, both immediately on the onset of a crisis through ECW’s First Emergency Response pooled fund, and in the longer-term through ECW’s Resilience multi-year programmes. By providing seed funding to develop and implement such programmes through selected partners, ECW aims to catalyse broader investments from global and in-country donors in education in emergencies.

ECW is currently working to promote access to quality education for 3.4 million children – of which 1.5 million girls.

One year only after ECW’s establishment, 13 countries have been selected to benefit from special funding support. ECW is currently working to promote access to quality education for 3.4 million children – of which 1.5 million girls – and support 19,000 teachers in Syria, Yemen, Chad, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Peru, Somalia and Ukraine. First Emergency Response is also planned in Nepal and Bangladesh and Resilience multi-year programmes in Afghanistan, Uganda and Lebanon.

The activities that ECW typically fund are diversified because they each address crisis-specific gaps and obstacles: from building and re-building schools, training refugee teachers and making sure they get paid, offering literacy and vocational training courses to parents, to adapting curriculum and education governance systems to emergency parameters, providing psychological support to the most affected children and promoting peace among students. When implemented in refugee settings, ECW’s programmes also address education needs in host communities in order to support refugees’ integration and social cohesion.

ECW’s approach to education in emergencies is holistic and contextualized. The education programmes the fund helps to develop and finance are tailor-made to the specific needs of crisis-affected and refugee children in targeted communities. They build on existing in-country education actors, solutions and coordination mechanisms and address all key educational parameters based on local requirements:

  • Access: Ensure that crisis-affected children are provided with continuous quality learning
  • Equity: Leave no one behind and ensure access is provided to the most vulnerable children, including girls and children with disabilities
  • Continuity: Ensure children stay in school until they complete their education
  • Quality: Improve learning outcomes by focusing on curriculum, teachers’ capacities and learning materials
  • Protection: Make sure that schools and learning centres offer a safe, protective and healing environment to crisis-affected children
Teacher with school children


The 2015 Oslo Summit on Education for Development urged governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), foundations, the private sector, academia and the civil society to mobilise collective action and more funding for education in emergencies. Two months later at the UN Sustainable Development Summit, Member States reiterated their commitment to SDG 4 – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all children and youth.

The following year, under the UN Secretary-General’s leadership and through a series of reforms to humanitarian funding known as the Grand Bargain, the World Humanitarian Summit called for a new way to address emergencies and protracted crises through better collaboration and coordination between humanitarian and development actors, increased and more flexible funding, less bureaucracy, national ownership and a more holistic approach that addresses both immediate and long-term needs, leaving no one behind.

Education Cannot Wait, launched during the Summit, is a direct response to that call by offering an agile, inclusive platform and pooled funds for state and non-state actors and donors to join forces, at both global and local levels, to support education in emergencies with humanitarian speed and development depth.

Learn more: Investing in Humanity – Understanding ECW’s Added Value

Secretariat and Governance

Education Cannot Wait uses a flexible and adaptable approach to both governance and operations to ensure that lessons learnt can inform the fund’s approaches in best mobilizing partners and addressing the educational needs of crisis-affected children

ECW’s day-to-day work is managed by a Secretariat that is hosted and administered within UNICEF as the initiative is incubating and scaling up. A High-Level Steering Group provides overall strategic direction and is comprised of partner organisations, including heads of government and senior ministers from crisis-affected and donor countries, as well as heads of multilateral agencies, NGOs and foundation.

Learn more: High Level Steering Group – Composition & Terms of Reference

Partners & donors

The launch of the Education Cannot Wait fund provides a unique roadmap to drive forward action on education in emergencies. Support from the following organisations has made this possible.


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