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ECW Director leads first all-women mission to Afghanistan since Taliban takeover: ‘With Afghanistan on the brink of a total collapse, the international community must stay engaged. The humanitarian imperative must come first.’

27 October 2021, Kabul/New York – Immediately following the first all-women UN mission to Afghanistan since takeover by the de facto authorities, Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait – the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises – appealed to donors to significantly increase financial support for a robust collective humanitarian-development nexus response. This includes urgent scaled up funding to UN agencies and NGO partners delivering life-saving education to vulnerable children and adolescents on the ground.

Amid an escalating health and nutrition crisis for children, with cold winter temperatures dropping quickly, a national economic meltdown, and the impacts of prolonged drought and years of conflict, the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that over half the population in Afghanistan – 23 million people – will struggle to put food on the table during the upcoming winter; the largest number ever recorded. Additionally, nearly 10 million girls and boys depend on humanitarian assistance to survive. All this against a backdrop of two decades of development programming severely impacted in the past two months.

“Salaries have not been paid for months, money and goods are no longer circulating in the country, entire communities and families have lost their livelihoods and struggle to make ends meet. Those who suffer the brunt of this acute crisis are the most innocent and vulnerable: girls, boys, adolescents and youth,” said Yasmine Sherif. “UN member states, donors and humanitarian organizations, as well as crisis-sensitive development organizations, must remain engaged and act together now to support children, teachers, educators and the Afghan people – with education at the center of the response – because education is their future and the future of the country. An estimated $1 billion dollars is urgently required by organizations working in the education sector.”

While the majority of schools were closed in Afghanistan during 2020-2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most primary schools for both girls and boys have reopened since the takeover of power in August. According to UN and NGO partners on the ground, with regards to secondary education, girls’ education has resumed in some provinces to date.

“For the millions of children living through the turmoil of today’s Afghanistan, education and learning is a lifeline that must be supported. Not only does it give girls and boys the tools to lead a healthy and productive life, but it also keeps them protected and safe,” said Alice Akunga, UNICEF’s Deputy Representative in Afghanistan. “We are asking the international community to come together to prevent the collapse of the education system and safeguard the gains made for children over the past two decades.”

During her three-day mission, Sherif met with the de facto authorities in Kabul, stressing the importance of increasing access to quality education for all children, with an emphasis on adolescent girls, throughout the country. Sherif also visited a girls’ school in Kabul and met with a wide range of education partners, including the UN-SRSG, UN agencies, international and national civil society organizations, and members of the education in emergency working group to take stock of the situation on the ground and identify additional opportunities to expand ECW emergency education investments and scaled up funding for UN and NGOs in the education sector.

Working with a direct execution modality through UN agencies and civil society organizations, ECW has been supporting the delivery of education programmes for the most vulnerable girls and boys in Afghanistan since 2018.

“Through community-based education and accelerated programmes, we have been able to operate in the most challenging contexts with tangible education results, including our focus on female teachers and girls’ education,” said Sherif. “Our partner UNICEF, other UN agencies, and national and international NGOs continue to operate in the country. They are ready to scale up and expand their work to new areas that have become accessible. But to do so, enormous financial resources are urgently needed.”

To date, ECW has invested US$45 million to support the education of girls, boys and adolescents in Afghanistan. This includes US$36 million for the first Multi-Year Resilience Programme (of which US$24 million has already been disbursed), previous First Emergency Response grants of US$4.6 million, and a recent First Emergency Response grant of US$4 million in response to the recent escalating needs.

These whole-of-child education approaches have proven effective and yielded promising results, including in areas not under the previous government’s control. According to ECW’s 2020 Annual Report, 58% of beneficiaries supported by ECW-funded  interventions are girls, with programmes implemented in some of the hardest-to-reach provinces in Afghanistan such as Herat, Kunduz, Kandahar and Uruzgan.

Even before the most recent humanitarian crisis, 4.2 million children were not enrolled in school in Afghanistan; around 60 per cent of them are girls. Rural areas of the country, particularly, also lacked adequate infrastructure and educational materials – with conflict, large-scale population displacement, and inequalities of access to quality education exacerbating the situation, particularly for girls, children with disabilities and marginalized communities.

“With our UN and civil society partners, ECW has a proven model of delivering access to quality education in crisis-impacted countries around the world,” said Sherif. “I call on our strategic partners and donors to support ECW and our UN and NGO partners in sustaining and urgently scaling up our programmes for all girls and boys in Afghanistan. Education is their inherent human right and every girl’s right. We have a moral, legal and ethical obligation to not abandon them at this crucial time in their young lives, especially at this critical point in Afghanistan’s history. It is a test of our own humanity.”


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ECW Director Yasmine Sherif Commemorates UN Day

As prepared for delivery.

In 1945, 76 years ago, in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust, with fresh and raw wounds still open the founders of the United Nations brought purpose and hope to the world.

One delegate who was present in San Francisco remembered: “We had all these delegates who had just left war-devastated European countries, people who had been living for years without lights, without food, some of them had come from prison camps, concentration camps and labor camps.”

The whole world had been at war. Somewhere between 50 million and 85 million human beings had perished. Entire cities laid in ruin. The United Nations rose from the ashes of destruction and created a magnificent vision for humankind.

Or like the Lebanese poet, Khalil Gibran, once wrote: “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls, the most massive characters are seared with scars.” Such were the personalities that created the United Nations.

The United Nations Charter of 1945 enshrines an ethical philosophy and sense for justice that epitomized the spirit of the founders of the world body.

“To save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to humankind, and to reaffirm faith in the fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person.”

In 1948, Eleanor Roosevelt and the French jurist, Rene Cassin, became the driving forces for the creation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1948.

With the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and successive conventions, which comprise international law, one can safely say that the United Nations was not established to find consensus around the lowest common denominator. It was created to inspire and mold consensus around the highest of human values.

Indeed, in a world of so much suffering, one is bound to ask whether there is anything that connects us in a more worthy cause than the United Nations.

Working in and around the United Nations for the past 31 years, I have seen the Organization have impact on people’s lives. I refuse to say that the United Nations has failed. Rather I say, it has succeeded in much, and is still working on achieving its potential.

Since 1989, my work has transported me to the warzones and crisis environments of those living on the edge of survival in Afghanistan, the Balkans and Darfur. It has brought me face to face with the children in Gaza and the West Bank, the orphans in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the refugees in Colombia and Chad, the political prisoners in Cambodia, families enduring daily violence in Guatemala, and communities struggling with chronic crisis in South Sudan.

My work has also taken me behind the doors into the structures and processes established to prevent and alleviate human suffering, into the political chambers of the United Nations: the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly.

The United Nations is a vitally important global organization with a noble mission that represents our shared weaknesses and strengths. It brings together the entire world and reflects the larger challenges and opportunities for humanity. It reflects the dynamics that we all have in common somehow: the yearning for moral leadership, the desire for justice and freedom, and the deep longing for a more enlightened world.

It requires from all of us to believe in this purpose and vision. We are all in this together. And it depends on us. You and me.

Dag Hammarskjold, the late UN Secretary General, once said: “When people, just people, stop thinking of the United Nations as a weird Picasso abstraction and see it as a drawing they made themselves.”

Looking at the world today, from Afghanistan to Syria, from Yemen to the Sahel, we know that our universal values are at stake. And when these are at stake something far greater and vastly more profound is required from us.

We need to ask ourselves what we can do for the United Nations because we are all the United Nations, or as the Charter opens, We the Peoples.

It is about leadership and how we relate to power. About values and justice. Courage and conviction. How we define intelligence and the importance of also having emotional intelligence: to feel empathy. To be able to generate hope and belief. To inspire freedom and creativity. And to remake ourselves. As Gandhi said: “If you want to change the world, start by changing yourself.”

It is possible in the United Nations.

Let me share the story of Education Cannot Wait. It is a global UN fund mandated to mobilize financial resources and empower UN agencies, civil society and communities in countries of wars and hosts of refugees, to deliver quality education to 128 million children and adolescents. For without education, how can any human right, any sustainable development goal be achieved. If the young people of a nation cannot read or write, if girls – 50% of the population – are left behind, how can we end extreme poverty, achieve gender equality or democratic governance, the rule of law, peace and stability.

Education sits at the heart of all human rights and sustainable development goals.

We are small global fund of nearly 30 staff. We apply the principles I just mentioned. We reduce redundant bureaucracy and focus on accountability to those we serve. We are disruptive, creative and bold.

In four years, we have mobilized a total of $1.8 billion dollars and invested in quality education in 38 crisis/conflict/refugee hosted countries. During Covid-19, we reached nearly 30 million children and adolescents and we have delivered a whole of child approach and real quality education to some 5 million children in the toughest parts of the world, the darkest corners on earth.

These are children and young people who have lost everything and have only one hope left: a quality education that will help them arise out of their suffering, out of their dispossession, their traumas and losses, and start anew, make their dreams come true.

If we can support them, we can change the world, and empower the young generation with hope. All they need are the tools. This is what the United Nations does. It brings hope and makes it a reality. Is it perfect? No. Is it making difference? Yes.

The United Nations is our only multilateral organization with a spirit of principles of justice, equality and peace. It is sprung from utter inhumanity and it represents all of humanity. It replaces national interests with human interests. It turns away from selfishness towards otherness. It may not be perfect, but it has an enormous potential. For every child who goes to school, for every refugee who returns home, for every food delivery that is made, for every vaccination it does, for every human life it saves, it makes the world a better place.

What we can do is to support it to achieve its potential.

Today, we commemorate the UN Day. We remember all our colleagues who perished in the line of duty and all the people they sought to serve. We commemorate what it has achieved and the vision upon which it was built. We keep that fire ablaze. We make it happen.

Your work is more important than ever. Keep going. Keep believing in the United Nations, keep the light ablaze. Or as the saint Catherine of Sena said: “If you are what we should be, you would set the whole world on fire.” It is a fire that that does not burn, but brings warmth to millions out there who need you and the United Nations.

Thank you.

USAID Funds Education in Northern Mali

USAID Press Release, available in English and French.

20 October, 2021, Bamako, Mali – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided initial funding of $5 million (FCFA 2.75 billion) for the regions of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu to support education in northern Mali. This aid from the American people is a contribution to the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies, Education Cannot Wait (ECW).

As of August 2021, 1,664 schools were closed in Mali due to conflict and threats of violence affecting 500,000 children and youth. The new funding will support education in northern Mali, where cycles of violence have forced people from their homes, weakened education systems, and kept many boys and girls out of school.

According to US Ambassador to Mali Dennis B. Hankins, “This funding from the American people is part of our larger commitment to supporting Mali’s development and helping to ensure that Malians all across the country, including in the North, benefit from quality education and the promise of a more peaceful and prosperous future.  I credit the role of the female members of the Monitoring Committee of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation (Comité de suivi de l’Accord, CSA) as the driving force behind our efforts to increase education programs in the North as part of the return of government services in all of Mali.”

The USAID funds will help children return to learning, build and reopen schools that have closed, provide psycho-social services for girls and boys that have endured the stress of displacement and conflict, and support local organizations and communities in building a stronger education system. This investment aligns with the Government of Mali’s educational and humanitarian response plans and will be implemented by Actions Concertées pour le Soutien à l’Éducation et au Développement Durable (ACFED) which is a consortium of local non-governmental organizations along with Humanity & Inclusion and UNICEF.

“Education is an essential building block for peace and stability in the Sahel. With access to safe, quality learning environments, we can help to break the cycles of poverty, hunger, and conflict. This contribution from USAID will support quality learning opportunities for some of the most vulnerable girls and boys in Mali, helping them to achieve their full potential and become positive changemakers for their communities,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of ECW.

This new funding from the United States government will accelerate the impact of ECW’s three-year program in Mali which was launched in January 2021 as part of a broader response to the regional crisis in the central Sahel. ECW’s Multi-Year Resilience Program provides targeted support for girls, children with disabilities and other marginalized groups, engages with local communities to get children back in school, works to build the resilience of local institutions, and supports efforts to recruit, train and retain quality teachers.

For more information, contact:
Embassy Press Office / ACI 2000 Rue 243 Porte 297 / Bamako, Mali
Tel : 20 70 24 24 /20 70 24 26 / Fax : 20 70 24 79 / Email :


21 October 2021, Palm Springs – The United Nations Association of the Coachella Valley is delighted to invite you to our next in a series of speaker events in celebration of the 2021 United Nations Day “A Conversation with Director Yasmine Sherif, Education Cannot Wait” on Thursday, October 21 from 5:30-6:45 PM (PT).

Join us a virtual conversation with Yasmine Sherif, the Director of Education Cannot Wait, a global fund for the the delivery of education in emergencies and protracted humanitarian crises. Education Cannot Wait is a new initiative working to transform the delivery of education in emergencies, one that links governments, humanitarian actors and development efforts to deliver a more collaborative and rapid response to the educational needs of children and youth affected by crises.

Over 128 million children and youth are in desperate need of educational support, in danger of, or already missing out on their education. The right to education is most at risk during humanitarian crises, the time when it is needed the most. The Fund aims to accelerate global efforts to reach all the crisis-affected children and youth by 2030.

Yasmine Sherif is a human rights lawyer with 30 years of experience with the United Nations system and civil society. She has served in crisis-affected countries in Africa, Asia, the Balkans and the Middle East. Yasmine has also served at the United Nations Headquarters in New York and Geneva.

She is currently based in New York where UNICEF is hosting the Education Cannot Wait Secretariat. Yasmine has also worked as an Adjunct Professor at Long Island University. She is the author of the book “The Case for Humanity: An Extraordinary Session,” launched at the United Nations in 2015. In 2017, she received the prestigious annual award “Sweden’s UN Friend of the Year” and in 2020 she was awarded the Global Educator Award in the United States.

Yasmine Sherif will highlight the critical role of the United Nations, the only forum bringing the world’s nations together in addressing global challenges and fostering global cooperation, human rights, multilateralism, as well as the background and work of Education Cannot Wait.

Please join us for this exciting opportunity to virtually meet Yasmine Sherif as we observe United Nations Day on the 76th anniversary of the United Nations!

Following Yasmine Sherif’s presentation, stay on the Zoom for a 30-minute Q&A session.


About UNA Coachella Valley

The United Nations Association Coachella Valley is one of 200 local chapters of UNA-USA. Our mission is to bring awareness and advocacy to issues that are both global in nature and regional issues that impact local communities throughout the United States. Local UNA’s bring attention to issues such as; Environmental Justice, HIV/AIDS, Social Justice, Food Security, and protecting and expanding rights of our Indigenous people, just to name a few.


Geneva, 7 October 2021 – Today, a shared workspace officially opened at Rue de Varembé 7, hosting staff from Education Cannot Wait (ECW) as well as other members of the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies. This is an exciting new venue which enables organisations advancing the delivery of education in emergencies to work together more closely and more collaboratively in the heart of Geneva’s international district.

The new workspace allows ECW staff to work closely with colleagues and partners who share the goal of transforming the delivery of education in emergencies and delivering collaborative and rapid education support to children and young people affected by conflict and crisis. In recent months, ECW has steadily increased its presence and capacity in Geneva, growing from three members of staff to 14, now exceeding the size of its New York team.

ECW is delighted to share the space with the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies, which was launched in January 2021 as a result of a pledge made at the Global Refugee Forum (GRF). The Hub brings together a strong alliance of partners who understand the critical importance of supporting education in emergency contexts. It will now be able to do so from this new office. The added capacity, including meeting rooms and workspaces, will help the Hub support its growing membership, which is now up to 30 from the original 10 co-signatories.

Others who have taken up desks in the same office space include education specialists from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), World Vision International, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – who have relocated some staff from Paris to Geneva in order to take advantage of synergies from this city’s international networks.

At an official ceremony held on 7 October, Swiss Ambassador Félix Baumann, representing the Host State, stressed that the new office is “an open space that welcomes field colleagues during their time in Geneva, bridging local action with global reach, translating into tangible change at country level.”

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Government of Switzerland and the other members to make sure that the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies becomes a resounding success and that it has a real, tangible impact on the children, families and communities whom we serve”, said Yasmine Sherif, Director of ECW.

Visitors were also welcomed by Petra Heusser, the Coordinator of the Geneva Global Hub, and Sarah Epprecht, ICRC’s Deputy Director of Operations. ICRC is an active member of the Hub and one of the original co-signatories.

The opportunity to work closely with other Hub partners is timely for ECW, as it publishes its 2020 annual results report and looks forward to continuing to expand its reach to children and young people affected by conflict and disaster. In 2020, ECW delivered education services across 34 countries, and to date has reached 4.6 million crisis-affected children and young people (48% girls). The proximity to partners in the new shared workspace will offer valuable opportunities for ECW to further increase efficiency by staying connected to other actors and stakeholders in the education in emergencies sector.

About the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies

Humanitarian crises, conflict and displacement deny millions of children and youth their right to education. That is why, at the 2019 Global Refugee Forum, Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the Global Education Cluster (GEC), the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), Switzerland, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the University of Geneva pledged to promote Geneva as the global hub for education in emergencies, leveraging the Geneva international community by convening actors and creating synergies for joint action so that all crisis-affected and displaced children and youth have their right to education fulfilled, respected and protected.


New investment will provide 38,000 internally displaced girls and boys – including adolescents – with protective, inclusive and flexible learning opportunities

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6 October 2021, New York – Education Cannot Wait announced today a new US$4 million First Emergency Response grant in Afghanistan.

The new investment responds to the fluid and complex crisis affecting Afghanistan, a sharp increase in internal displacement, and the long-term impacts that decades of conflict have had on Afghanistan’s children and adolescents.

Delivered in coordination with Afghanistan’s Education in Emergencies Working Group, the ECW grant will provide 38,000 internally displaced children and adolescents – with a focus on girls’ education (20,900 girls) – with access to quality, flexible learning opportunities and psychosocial support.

Afghanistan’s Education in Emergencies Working Group estimates that approximately 400,000 school-aged children in Afghanistan have been forcibly displaced since January 2021. Across the country more than 3.7 million girls and boys are out of school, and just 37 per cent of teenage girls can read and write, compared to 66 per cent for adolescent boys.

“Every girl and boy in Afghanistan deserves to realize their inherent human right to a quality education. The rights of girls and adolescent girls are especially important, as well as that of children with disabilities given the widespread challenges and suffering of both groups. Education Cannot Wait and our partners are responding with speed to provide safe and inclusive educational opportunities for an entire generation of Afghan children and youth that risk being left behind within a complex humanitarian crisis. This represents our investment in peace, our investment in girls’ education, and our investment in human dignity and human rights,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises.

The ECW investment builds on the impact of the Fund’s Multi-Year Resilience Programme in Afghanistan, which had reached close to 120,000 children (58% of whom were girls) by 2020, by expanding access to community-based education for children, promoting continuity in learning, supporting teacher training, improving monitoring systems, and establishing child protection and safeguarding measures.

The First Emergency Response grant provides learning and psychosocial support opportunities for displaced and at-risk girls and boys – including adolescents – through the provision of a variety of flexible and alternative learning programmes offered in community-based temporary learning spaces.

Other activities include the provision of teaching and learning materials; teacher trainings on pedagogy, disability inclusion, and psychosocial support; rehabilitation of gender-sensitive and disability-accessible water and sanitation facilities; light repairs to community learning structures damaged during conflict; and provision of recreational and psychosocial support kits.


With the number of displaced people on course to double by mid-century, if not sooner, developing their potential is crucial. Extending hope and opportunity to young people at risk of being left behind is a powerful way to advance human rights, promote equality, and foster peace and stability.

By Gordon Brown and Allan Goodman. Article re-posted with permission from Project Syndicate.

5 October 2021, London – The ongoing flood of refugees from Afghanistan – now some 2.6 million strong – is sadly no isolated tragedy. Indeed, if all of today’s 82.4 million refugees and forcibly displaced persons were gathered into a single state it would be the world’s twentieth largest country by population. If current trends continue, and climate change adds substantially to the numbers as the World Bank predicts, the number of refugees and displaced persons by mid-century could exceed the population of Brazil, and nearly that of Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and France combined. With sea levels rising, some forecasters suggest that the world’s displaced population – already the largest recorded in human history – could exceed one billion.

Long before we heard anything about a novel coronavirus, the rising number of refugees was being driven by the pathogens of war and ethnic and religious hatred, and by our collective inability to feel others’ pain. Refugee “camps” have become permanent cities, but most refugees are dispersed in hovels, huts, and rented accommodation, where they have been living for almost 20 years on average, with no end in sight.

Tragically, among the millions suffering from this disruption is a lost generation of young people with little access to education and employment. Think of the talent that would be lost, the ability squandered, and the potential untapped if a country’s entire youth population was denied these opportunities.

Among today’s displaced youth are potential leaders – the future Albert Einsteins, Jessye Normans, J.K. Rowlings, and Tim Berners-Lees – with the capabilities and drive to make the world a more prosperous and less dangerous place. But what chance is there for a young person trapped in a besieged town in Syria or Afghanistan to show their genius? Or for a child in the midst of the conflict in Yemen, Chad, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, or Libya, or in the South Sudanese refugee camps on the Ugandan border?

The refugee problem is now so widespread that even in wealthy Europe, thousands of young people in the Moria camp in Greece – until it burned down in 2020 – were receiving no formal education. Two summers ago, three adolescents in Moria – aged 12, 13, and 14 – reached such levels of despair that they attempted suicide.

Yes, hope dies when a refugee boat capsizes, a food convoy can’t reach hungry people, and a hospital has no doctors to treat patients with COVID-19. But hope also dies when a young person cannot prepare for the future and is unable even to dream of a different life. This happens when they are denied the education all young people need to bridge the gap between who they are and what they can become.

There is no single-shot vaccine that will end the exploding refugee crisis. But amid the chaos, efforts are underway to provide life-changing educational opportunities to young people currently living without the advantages of more stable, supportive environments.

For school-age refugee children and youth, new hope dawned in 2016 with the launch of Education Cannot Wait, a United Nations global fund. Since its inception, the initiative has not only reached an estimated 4.6 million children trapped in some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, but it has also acted as the catalyst for aid agencies to help millions more.

For university-age students, the Institute of International Education’s online Platform for Education in Emergencies Response offers pathways to continue formal and informal higher education. These include the University of the People, a tuition-free online university accredited in 2014 that counts 7,000 refugees among its 106,000 students. The university has promised the United Nations that it will enroll 25,000 refugee students by 2030.

We now need to expand the circle of opportunity by providing a similar opportunity at the graduate level for refugee and displaced students. That means building the equivalent of the Fulbright, Churchill, or Marshall programs, which have found and developed individual talent for decades.

Such scholarship programs do much more than that. The Harkness Fellowships have built a collaborative international network of health-policy researchers and practitioners. The Kennedy Scholarships spur closer transatlantic relations between future leaders. The Schwarzman Scholars are forging a network that will foster stronger ties between China and the rest of the world. The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship is equipping young Africans to become visionary leaders who will transform the continent and advance equality, freedom, and human rights. Extending hope and opportunity to young people at risk of being left behind is a powerful way to advance these values, foster peace and stability, and bring about a transformative and durable solution to the refugee crisis.

We know that we can find young potential leaders among the most disadvantaged group of all – the displaced – and give them access to advanced education. An innovative, competitive program would provide refugee and displaced students with fellowships for two full years of graduate study, in any field, within the country where they have found refuge or anywhere in the world. If this initiative can attract the funding it needs to be successful, it will take its place alongside other respected, enduring, and high-impact scholarship programs, and, like them, over time it will take thousands of young people from where they are to what they can become.


The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown is the UN Special Envoy for Global Education and the Chair of Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Steering Group.

2020 will be remembered as a uniquely challenging year.

For the millions of marginalized children and adolescents already caught in armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate-induced disasters and protracted crises, COVID-19 further impacted their lives as a ‘crisis within a crisis.’

An entire generation faces irreversible loss.

In the face of these challenges, Education Cannot Wait quickly stepped in to ensure every child has access to a safe, inclusive learning environment.

ECW’s COVID-19 emergency grants reached over 29 million children and adolescents – including 51% girls – in 32 crisis-affected countries and contexts!

The Fund also increased the number of adolescents it reached with secondary education by 50% and more than doubled the number of children it reached with pre-primary education.

Today, a lot must be done to overcome the hurdles keeping children out of school.

I call on public and private donors to step up their funding so that, together, we become the first generation in history in which each single child goes to school.

Education Cannot Wait has adapted to unprecedented challenges and accomplished so much in the past year. See the full scope of ECW’s impact in our new Annual Results Report!

For additional information and to access the full report:


Building on its innovative model that has already reached 4.6 million children & adolescents in the world’s worst humanitarian crises, Education Cannot Wait calls for urgent, bold investments in education in emergency programmes to avoid irreversible loss for entire generations.

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5 October 2021, Geneva/New York – On this World Teachers’ Day, Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, announced it has reached more than 4.6 million children and adolescents (48% of whom are girls) with quality education in more than 30 of the worst humanitarian crises around the world.

The Fund’s new Annual Results Report Winning the Human Race,’ stresses the importance of investing in the teaching force to support and promote quality learning outcomes for crisis-affected girls and boys. To date, ECW has recruited or financially supported close to 150,000 teachers (including over 41,000 women) and provided over 2.6 million children and adolescents with individual learning materials in emergency contexts and protracted crises.

ECW’s COVID-19 education in emergency response also helped an additional 29.2 million vulnerable girls and boys and 310,000 teachers living in crises and emergency settings. This included support to distance-learning solutions and various integrated messages and products to ensure continuing education and protect the health and wellbeing of children, teachers and their communities through the pandemic.

Despite these achievements, ECW’s report underlines that COVID-19 acted as a risk-multiplier, not only creating new challenges but also amplifying existing risks for the most vulnerable groups, particularly girls and children and adolescents with disabilities.

For millions of marginalized children and adolescents already caught in armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate change-induced disasters and protracted crises, COVID-19 hit as a ‘crisis within an already ongoing crisis’,” said UN Special Envoy for Global Education, The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown. “An entire generation in emergencies and protracted crisis faces irreversible loss. Among them, an estimated 20 million displaced girls, particularly adolescent girls, are at risk. The Annual Results Report 2020 is a living testimony of how we can resist the threats and stand greater chances of winning the human race. World leaders must step up and ensure adequate financing for education dedicated to all girls, children and adolescents support by our collective mission.”

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the importance of education to the fore. Today more than ever, education is the key to unlocking opportunity for the next generation: it kick-starts economic recovery, innovation, and climate action, and provides a safety net and lifeline for children and adolescents living in crisis-affected areas.

At the same time, the pandemic also negatively affected both overseas development assistance (ODA) and humanitarian funding for education. Some donor countries have already started shifting their budgets away from aid to domestic priorities. Meanwhile funding requirements for education in humanitarian appeals have significantly increased – from $1 billion in 2019 to $1.4 billion in 2020 – further widening the funding gap for the sector.

“COVID-19 has compounded the effects of armed conflict, instability, climate-related disasters and forced displacement from Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, to the Sahel, Ethiopia and Venezuela – to name but a few of the crises where ECW is working with partners to fulfill the right of every girl and boy to a safe, quality education,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “We can win the human race provided that we are ready to invest in it and ensure that these children and adolescents access an inclusive 12 years of quality education. This is an investment in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, an investment in peace, an investment in our future, and an investment in our universal human rights and our shared humanity.”

Key Trends

While nearly all children worldwide have been affected by school closures due to COVID-19, those living in the poorest countries have been disproportionately so, according to the report. Since March 2020, schools in crisis-affected countries – where ECW prioritizes its investments to ensure that no child is left behind – have closed for an average of 32 days more than in other countries. Students in South Sudan, for example, lost 16% of their schooling over a lifetime, compared to 3% for students in countries of Europe and Central Asia.

The ECW report shows that this learning loss will only aggravate the pre-pandemic rate of learning inequalities, particularly affecting the 53% of children in low- and middle-income countries who, by the age of 10, cannot read or understand a simple text.

Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, the report also underscores multiplying risks for crisis-impacted children and adolescents.

The global climate crisis is having a significant impact on the well-being and educational opportunities of children and adolescents, with weather-related hazards such as storms and floods, displacing over 30 million people in 2020. With scientific consensus that extreme weather events will increase in severity and frequency, even more children will be put at risk.

In times of disaster, children usually account for almost half of those affected. Globally, more than a half-billion children live in areas with an extremely high flood rate and 160 million live in high or extremely high drought severity zones.

Forced displacement of people, including children, due to conflicts increased significantly in 2020, with ten countries producing three-quarters of the world’s refugees. In addition, there were 40.5 million new internal displacements in 2020 – connected in part to conflict, climate change, poverty and insecurity – the highest number on record.

Schools continue to be targeted in attacks. Between 2017 and 2019, there were more than 11,000 reported attacks on schools, universities, students and education personnel.

A call to action

Since its inception in 2016, ECW has mobilized US$828.3 million through the ECW Trust Fund, and helped leverage with its partners US$1 billion worth of programmes aligned with ECW’s Multi-Year Resilience Programmes in 10 countries.

“Working together with our partners, the scope of our collective achievements is unequivocal: less than 5 years into existence, ECW has demonstrated its proof of concept through concrete results. I call on world leaders, the private sector and our global community to urgently and generously support Education Cannot Wait in reaching the millions of children that are at risk of falling through the cracks,” said Sherif.


  • Total reach: ECW’s investments in holistic education programmes for crisis-affected girls and boys have reached 4.6 million children and adolescents (48% of whom are girls), with a focus on those left furthest behind: refugees (38%), internally displaced children (16.4%), and of host community children and adolescents and other vulnerable populations (45.6%). In addition, shorter and more targeted COVID-19 interventions aimed at continuing education and keeping children and adolescents safe from the pandemic reached a total of 29.2 million girls and boys in 2020 alone.
  • Increased access to education: 96% of ECW-supported programmes increased access to education for crisis-affected children and adolescents. In Uganda, for example, the gross enrolment ratio of refugee children grew steadily from 72% in 2017 to 79% in 2020.
  • Strengthening equity and gender equality. 94% of ECW-supported programmes show improvement in gender parity in access to education. Girls represent 48% of all children reached through ECW’s investments since inception, and 40% of teachers recruited or financially supported through ECW’s funding in 2020 are women. The percentage of children with disabilities reached grew from 0.2% since inception to 1.3% in 2020 across ECW’s programme portfolio.
  • Increased continuity and sustainability of education: By the end of 2020, ECW had cumulatively reached some 275,000 children (51% girls) with early-childhood or pre-primary education interventions since its inception. The share of children reached with secondary education across ECW’s programme portfolio increased from 9% in 2019 to 13% in 2020.
  • Improved learning and skills: Since ECW’s inception nearly 70,000 teachers (48% female) have been trained through regular non-COVID-19 programming. A total of 2.6 million teaching and learning materials were provided to children and adolescents (47% to girls). Learning outcome measurement has also expanded to an increasing number of ECW grants.
  • Safe and protective learning environment: In 2020, ECW’s partners increased access to water and sanitation facilities in 2,225 learning spaces and provided some 3,100 children with safe transportation mechanisms to and from school. In 2020 remote mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) interventions for children, teachers, and caregivers were undertaken, and more than 19,500 teachers (54% female) were trained on MHPSS. ECW investments supported children with school feeding programmes in Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sahel region.

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