Education Cannot Wait Appoints Two ‘global Champions for Education in Emergencies’ on International Day of Education

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Former UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and former European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides join the global movement to ensure children and youth caught in crises have access to the safety, protection and hope of an education

New York

As part of the global celebrations of the International Day of Education, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) appointed former UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, and former European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, as ECW Global Champions for Education in Emergencies.

As the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 kicks off, the two new Global Champions will support the growing global movement to deliver quality, inclusive education to more than 75 million children and youth worldwide that are missing out on the hope, opportunity and protection of an education as the result of protracted crises and emergencies.

“I am delighted that Irina Bokova and Christos Stylianides have accepted to serve in the important advocacy role of ‘ECW Global Champion for Education in Emergencies’,” said Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair, Education Cannot Wait High-Level Steering Group. “They will be great assets to our shared cause for the United Nations and the 75 million children and youth around the world whose education is disrupted by crises.”

“Irina Bokova and Christos Stylianides are passionate and committed leaders in advocating for education, and they embody the human spirit that drives our movement forward,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Together with our partners, these tireless Global Champions will relentlessly advocate for education to be put front and center in humanitarian responses, upholding the right to education of the millions of girls and boys enduring armed conflicts, disasters and forced displacement.”

As the ninth Director-General of UNESCO – and the first woman to head the agency – Bokova is a staunch advocate for quality education, gender equality, women’s empowerment and sustainable development. UNESCO is a key partner for Education Cannot Wait’s educational responses, which have already delivered education to children and youth in some 30 countries affected by crises.

“Education Cannot Wait is a pioneer of the big efforts to provide education to the 75 million children and youth whose education is disrupted by crises. I am, therefore, very proud to be an active advocate and supporter of ECW’s admirable work,” said Bokova. “Despite the progress, big challenges remain. Joining forces is key to tackle them effectively. It is our moral duty to help children around the globe get the education they deserve.”

As the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Stylianides was a key proponent of the European Union (EU)’s groundbreaking decision to devote 10 per cent of its humanitarian assistance to education.  The EU has already committed €21 million (US$24.7 million) to ECW, and a number of EU member states are key donors to the Fund.

“I am excited and honored to become an ECW Global Champion and to support its ground-breaking work to bring education to children in conflict and crisis,” said Stylianides. “Indeed, education cannot wait until a conflict is over, until buildings have been rebuilt, until resources are available. Education is the best, long-term way to break the cycles of violence and poverty and set communities on the path to peace and development.”



With the support of its Global Champions and key partners in national governments, United Nations agencies, philanthropic foundations and donors, Education Cannot Wait seeks to mobilize US$1.8 billion by 2021 to support education programmes for children and youth caught in the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

The Fund has already raised over half a billion dollars in its first three years of operation and plays an instrumental role in strengthening the coherence between short-term humanitarian assistance and medium-to long-term development interventions in the education aid sector. ECW is rapidly scaling up its investments to support quality learning outcomes for vulnerable girls and boys in crises, such as:

  • In the Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, where education is deliberately being targeted by non-state armed individuals and groups, including the killing of school personnel and the destruction and looting of school facilities and threats to communities that have forced the closure of hundreds of schools. Hundreds of thousands of children and youth are in urgent need of educational support across the region.
  • In Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru where half of the refugee and migrant children from Venezuela are not enrolled in formal schooling, putting them at greater risks of child labour, gender based-violence, sexual exploitation and trafficking. The worsening situation in Venezuela has pushed over 4 million Venezuelans to flee the country, a majority of whom are families with children. An estimated 1.2 million children and youth are affected in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru alone.
  • In Yemen, where 12 percent of the population is displaced after nearly four years of conflict, 7 million children need humanitarian assistance to ensure the continuation of their education. Across the country, 2 million children are out of school. Girls are more likely to lose out on education, with 36 percent out of school compared to 24 percent of boys.
  • In Uganda, the largest refugee hosting country in Africa, more than 1.2 million people have sought refuge from the crises in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Education Response Plan aims to reach almost 600,000 affected children with quality education. At the start of the 2020, $22M has been mobilized, but $89M is urgently required for full implementation of the Education Response Plan.

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