World Leaders Pledge a Record Us$216 Million to Education Cannot Wait During United Nations General Assembly

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The global fund for education in emergencies surpasses half-a-billion dollar milestone in resources mobilized to reach children and youth left furthest behind in crises

New York

World leaders today committed to expanding access to inclusive quality education for girls and boys caught up in the world’s worst humanitarian crises with US$216 million in pledges for Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the global fund for education in emergencies.

Recognizing the urgent need to address the education crisis faced by millions of children and youth left furthest behind in armed conflicts, forced displacements, natural disasters and protracted crises, world leaders from Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and the private sector – The LEGO Foundation and ProFuturo – announced significant contributions to Education Cannot Wait, materializing their commitment to “reach those left furthest behind.”

Pledges were announced in a room filled to capacity with a wide range of stakeholders at the ‘Leave No One Behind: Accelerating the SDGs Through Quality Education – Two New Initiatives’ event held at UNICEF during the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.

“Last Friday, millions of children to their credit walked out of school to protest against climate change. Today, we are protesting that no children have no school to walk out from.  There are 260 million who don’t go to school — 75 million because of crisis. There is not just a climate emergency, there is an education emergency. Today’s announcement of new funds gives new hope to the millions of children around the world,” said the Rt Hon Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education.

With the announcement of a £85 million (US$105 million) contribution to ECW at the G7 in August, the United Kingdom (UK) is now the Fund’s top donor.

“Children living through wars and humanitarian crises have had their childhood taken away from them. We will not allow their future to be lost as well. This is why UK aid is helping some of the most vulnerable children, particularly girls, get the education they deserve. This will have a transformative effect on their lives,” said Alok Sharma, the UK Secretary of State for International Development.

Education Cannot Wait and partners seek to mobilize US$1.8 billion by 2021 to reach 9 million children and youth in countries affected by armed conflicts, forced displacement and natural disasters – which are often induced by climate change. Today’s new contributions bring the total resources raised by Education Cannot Wait to $560 million to date.

“As conflict and crises multiply and last longer, the need for education in emergencies grows. By working together with partners through Education Cannot Wait, we can ensure a more coordinated and efficient response. Only then can we succeed in reaching those left furthest behind, providing opportunities for some of the most marginalized and excluded children to thrive and become positive agents of change,” said Dag Inge Ulstein, Minister of International Development of Norway, who announced that Norway will increase its contribution to Education Cannot Wait.

“Today, with this tremendous support, Education Cannot Wait and our strategic donor partners are saying to girls and boys suffering the brunt of crises ‘You are no longer forgotten!’,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Our investment modalities are designed to act swiftly, and we will immediately work jointly with our humanitarian and development partners on the ground in crisis-affected countries – including host-governments, UN agencies, civil society and the private sector – to transform these crucial resources into quality inclusive education, protection and physical and psychological well-being for millions of children and youth caught in some of the world’s most difficult and hostile environments.”

Since its inception in 2016, Education Cannot Wait has invested in 32 countries, reaching more than 1.5 million children and youth – half of them girls. The Fund works with a range of stakeholders – governments, UN agencies, private sector and philanthropic actors, civil society organizations and affected communities. ECW invests across the humanitarian-development nexus to support rapid education responses when a crisis strikes or escalates, while also ensuring predictable multi-year resilience education programmes for children and youth impacted by protracted crises. The Fund’s investments are designed to increase accountability, efficiency and sustainability; the share of ECW’s funding channeled as directly as possible to local actors increased from 19 per cent to 30 per cent in just two years.  

Education Cannot Wait’s strategic approach is inspired by, and aligned with the UN reform. With its lean and agile structure focused on delivering results, it is now considered one of the fastest growing multilateral initiatives to advance collective efforts towards Sustainable Development Goal 4, quality education, in crisis settings.

The ‘Leave No One Behind’ event was produced by international advocacy movement Global Citizen and moderated by CNN’s Zain Asher. Global Citizen’s Vice President of Policy, Madge Thomas, said greater attention is needed for causes like Education Cannot Wait, and that Global Citizen has joined civil society organizations including Save the Children, Theirworld, Plan International, the Global Campaign for Education and many others to help mobilize attention and resources.  

“Over 200,000 global citizens and young people around the world, some of them in the room today, called on governments to support Education Cannot Wait and provide better financing for education,” said Thomas. “Today, donors answered this call which is a great outcome to report back to all those who took action. But more is needed, and we hope this inspires other leaders to scale up support.” 

Several celebrities and global education advocates attended the event, using their presence and voice to shine the spotlight on the urgent need for education in emergencies to be front and center on the global agenda.  The list of personalities included: Education Cannot Wait’s global ‘Champion for children in conflicts and crises’ and winner of the Varkey Foundation 2019 Global Teacher Prize, Peter Tabichi, and Global Citizen Ambassador and Grammy-nominated rap-artist French Montana. World-renowned actor and supporter of Education Cannot Wait, Will Smith, also participated in the event through a video message.



Denmark: 25% increase in contribution for a total of US$37 million over 2019-2022, reaching a grand total of US$79.1 million to date

Germany: EUR 10 million/US$11 million, reaching a total of US$46.7 million to date           

Ireland: EUR 6 million /US$6.6 million, first-time contribution

Norway: NOK 500 million/US$55 million, reaching a total of US$77.2 million to date        

Switzerland:  CHF 6 million/US$6 million, first-time contribution

UK (DFID): GBP 85 million/US$106 million, reaching a total of US$149.5 million to date                         

USA (USAID/PRM): US$12 million, reaching a total US$33 million to date


The LEGO Foundation: US$12.5 million, first-time contribution

ProFuturo: Contributions to multi-year resilience programmes in-country to reach a total of 650,000 children




Note to Editors:

About Education Cannot Wait (ECW):

ECW is the first global, multi-lateral fund dedicated to education in emergencies. It was launched by international humanitarian and development aid actors, along with public and private donors, to address the urgent education needs of 75 million children and youth in conflict and crisis settings. ECW’s investment modalities are designed to usher in a more collaborative approach among actors on the ground, ensuring relief and development organizations join forces to achieve education outcomes. Education Cannot Wait is hosted by UNICEF. The Fund is administered under UNICEF’s financial, human resources and administrative rules and regulations, while operations are run by the Fund’s own independent governance structure. 

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