The fund

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

ECW 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. Generate additional funding to help close the $8.5 billion funding gap needed to reach 75 million children and youth.
  3. Plan and respond collaboratively, with a particular emphasis on supporting programmes that enable humanitarian and development actors to work together on shared objectives.
  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 is a first-of-its kind fund that offers governments, multilateral institutions and the private sector the chance to finance comprehensive education programmes for children and youth affected by conflicts, natural disasters and displacement, right from the onset of crisis through recovery phases.

ECW’s First Emergency Response investment window supports education programmes immediately in sudden-onset or escalating crises. The fund’s Multi-Year Resilience investment window addresses longer-term needs through multi-year joint programmes in protracted crises, enabling humanitarian and development actors to work together on delivering collective education outcomes in five priority areas:

  • Access: Ensure that crisis-affected children are provided with continuous quality learning
  • Equity and Gender Equality: 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
  • Protection: Make sure that schools and learning centres offer a safe, protective and healing environment to crisis-affected children
  • Quality: Improve learning outcomes by focusing on curriculum, teachers’ capacities and learning materials

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’s third window of investment, the Acceleration Facility, supports research and data collection, advancing best practices and promoting innovation, learning outcomes and gender-targeted interventions in education in emergencies.

Additional information on ECW’s mandate, investments modalities and strategic objectives and results framework is available in our ECW Strategic Plan 2018-2021.

ECW has reached more than 765,000 children and youth with quality education  – of which 364,000 are girls – in 19 crisis-affected countries since its start. The Fund is on track to reach over 1 million children by the end of 2018.

ECW has invested $134.5 million in 19 crisis-affected countries. These include 16 First Emergency Response allocations to countries facing sudden-onset or escalating crises, 4 countries targeted by ECW’s 2-year Initial Investments Programmes, and 3 countries targeted with Multi-Year Programmes.

ECW investments are on track to reach 1 million children by the end of 2018. As of June, ECW support for quality education has reached more than 765,000 children and youth (48 per cent girls). These are among the most vulnerable, excluded and hard-to-reach children and youth on the globe, including refugees, displaced and host communities, girls and adolescent women in emergencies, and the disabled.


ECW-supported programmes span a wide spectrum of context-specific activities designed to meet education needs for crises-affected children and youth aged 3-18 years old and are implemented through 60 implementing partners at the country-level (as of 31 October 2018), including UN agencies, and international and national NGOs. To learn more about ECW’s achievements in its first year of operations, read our blog post or consult the ECW Results Report: April 2017 – March 2018.

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

Donors & partners

Total donor contributions and pledges to ECW (as of 3 December 2018) 

ECW stacked chart 3

Click here to view the chart in PDF

ECW donars chart 04122018

Click here to download the chart in PDF

To date, ECW mobilized a total of US$319 million in contributions and pledges from 13 generous donors. This includes a $10 million contribution from Sweden for the ECW-supported multi-year resilience programme in Afghanistan.

The following donors and organisations support ECW through financial contributions, global advocacy and technical assistance.

ECW’s investments are possible thanks to the generous and timely contributions of its donors.

Figures for donor contributions and pledges are rounded up. Variations may occur due to exchange rates and fluctuations from local currencies to $US.  



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