Support to education for refugees took centre stage at this week’s first-ever Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, culminating in total year-end global contributions to Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the Global Fund for Education in Emergencies, to over a quarter of a billion US dollars in 2019.

New pledges by Germany, European Commission/European Union, Norway and Theirworld bring January-December 2019 donor contributions to Education Cannot Wait to over a quarter of a billion US dollars – with over half a billion US dollars raised in just three years

20 December 2019, New York – Support to education for refugees took centre stage at this week’s first-ever Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, culminating in total year-end global contributions to Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the Global Fund for Education in Emergencies, to over a quarter of a billion US dollars in 2019.

New funding pledged at the Global Refugee Forum comes from Germany (EUR 16 million), European Commission/European Union (EUR 5 million), Norway (NOK 20 million) and Theirworld (US$431,000).

This new funding brings Education Cannot Wait’s resource mobilization in 2019 total to US$253 million. The Fund has raised over half a billion US dollars (US$583 million) since its inception just three years ago. The funds will jumpstart resource mobilization efforts for 2020, as Education Cannot Wait and its partners build momentum in their global movement to mobilize US$1.8 billion by 2021 to reach 9 million children and youth annually.

“We marked a milestone with UNHCR and our partners at the Global Refugee Forum and the world has spoken. Education needs to be placed at the center of global responses for forced displacement due to armed conflicts and natural disasters,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Every child and every young person is entitled to the protection that crisis-sensitive education programmes can provide during the most difficult time of their young lives. As we enter the Decade of Action, together, we can deliver on SDG4, the Global Goal for inclusive, quality education.”

Germany’s new EUR 16 million contribution (approximately US$17.8 million) substantially adds on to the EUR 10 million previously committed this year, bringing Germany’s total commitment in 2019 to EUR 26 million. Germany’s contribution will support the continued roll-out of ECW’s multi-year resilience programmes in 2020, bridging the divide between humanitarian and development interventions.

With its new EUR 5 million contribution, the European Commission/European Union, expands its total contribution to ECW to close to US$25 million since the inception of the Fund, reaffirming its support for ECW to provide education in emergencies. The European Commission provided the second-largest contribution during the Global Refugee Forum and sets a model for humanitarian-development coherence which is at the core of ECW’s mandate.

Norway’s new NOK 20 million contribution (approximately US$2.2 million) expands upon the NOK 500 million contribution announced for 2019-2022, ranking Norway as the second largest donor to Education Cannot Wait. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jens Frølich Holte, announced the new pledge highlighting that “3.7 million refugee children are not in school and the global community has to step up its efforts.”

Theirworld’s new US$431,000 contribution expands upon its ongoing education support for refugee children on the Greek Aegean Islands with the announcement of a new center near the overcrowded Moria Camp on Lesvos. This new center expands the broader Theirworld project with Education Cannot Wait and will reach additional vulnerable refugee children.

“Worldwide, there are 71 million displaced people – 2 million more than last year. 90 percent have found refuge in a developing country. The root causes of refugee movements are wars, hunger and a lack of prospects. The situation in the crisis region around Syria, in Yemen or in the refugee camps of the Rohingya remains disastrous. It is the children who suffer most. That is why the BMZ committed another 16 million euros to the ‘Education Cannot Wait’ Fund at the Refugee Forum,” said German Development Minister Gerd Müller (view press statement).

“It is heartbreaking to see the conditions these young people are living in and the relative lack of support from the international community. We have found ourselves in a very unique position to deliver immediate education support to refugees through our partnerships and unlock bigger change for thousands more,” said Theirworld President Justin van Fleet (view press statement).

Out of 25.9 million refugees globally, about half are children and youth below 18 years old. While the number of refugee children enrolled in primary education is only 63 per cent, larger gaps remain in secondary education at 24 per cent enrolment and in tertiary/higher-level education at 3 per cent enrolment.

The generous new funding will help build on efforts by ECW and partners to close the funding gap for education in emergencies to reach the approximately 75 million children and youth caught up in forced displacement, conflicts and disasters who urgently need education support.

At the Global Refugee Forum, ECW pledged to “Facilitate and invest in multi-year programmes for refugee and host-community children to access quality education, particularly in secondary education” and joined with the Global Partnership for Education and World Bank to pledge for increased financing and coordination to improve education for refugees.

ECW also called on partners to fully fund the Uganda Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities. Led by the government of Uganda with the support of UNHCR and implemented by a civil society consortium, this ECW-facilitated programme is the first of its kind, with ECW committing US$33 million in seed funding and appealing to donors to fill the gap of US$250 million. 

Since 2017, Education Cannot Wait’s investments – spanning more than 30 crisis-affected countries – have reached 2 million children and youth, of whom 33 percent are refugees.

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About Education Cannot Wait: ECW is the first global 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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Anouk Desgroseilliers,, +1-917-640-6820

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Refugee children in Ethiopia. Photo ECW
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16 December 2019 – The first Global Refugee Forum, which kicks off in Geneva today, comes at the end of a tumultuous decade in which the number of refugees has risen to more than 26 million people worldwide.

Having fled their homes in search of protection, the vast majority of refugees – some 85 per cent – live in the world’s poorest countries. As a result, many struggle to access essential services in their new homes.

Access to education is a case in point. More than half the world’s refugees are children, and some 3.7 million of them have not only lost their homes but their opportunity to go to school.

As a result of discrimination, exclusion and a lack of funding, refugee children are five times less likely to attend school than other children in the countries to which their families have fled. Only 61 percent attend primary school, 22 percent have access to secondary school and just 1 percent benefit from higher education. Refugee girls are out of school at higher rates than boys.

Education is a top priority for refugees

These circumstances stand in stark contrast to the priority that refugees themselves place on education. ‘Education against the odds’, the largest analysis of what children say they need during humanitarian emergencies, revealed that children affected by crises are more than twice as likely to rank going to school as their top concern over other needs.

They and members of their communities know that education transforms lives, paving the way to better work, health and livelihoods. Moreover, in times of crisis, education can play a life-saving and life-sustaining role. It is a building block of recovery, resilience and long-term development.

Responsibility must be shared

Countries that receive and host refugees and include them in their national education systems, often for extended periods, make an immense contribution from their own limited resources to both the collective good and to the rights and dignity of refugees. However, despite the tremendous generosity of host countries, the gap between the needs and the resources available to meet these needs, including for education, continues to grow.

Guided by the Global Compact on Refugees, the first Global Refugee Forum provides an opportunity to address this challenge and translate the central principle of international responsibility-sharing into concrete action.

As three multilateral organizations committed to ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all, we recognize the urgent need for more and better financial resources to ensure that countries hosting refugees can deliver the promise of quality learning opportunities made in the Global Compact.

Promising developments

We are, separately and jointly, already responding to the immense challenge the global refugee crisis presents to host country education systems.

As the largest financier of education programmes in the world, the World Bank continues to finance refugee and host country support operations through both IBRD and IDA financing supporting the integration of refugee education into the education of the host community while strengthening the overall education system of the host country, ensuring displaced children and youth can access inclusive and safe schools, and learn the necessary skills and competencies to thrive in their communities and beyond.

Education Cannot Wait was established to turn around the historically low levels of humanitarian funding for education and is pioneering new approaches to close the funding gaps for education in emergency contexts including Multi-Year Resilience Programmes.

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) works in nearly 70 developing countries to ensure that all children have access to a quality education.  In refugee-hosting countries, GPE mobilizes financing and provides technical support to build resilient, effective education systems so that all children have the opportunity to learn. Currently, GPE is providing $1.1 billion in grants to support quality education in more than 20 countries where refugees have access to national schools.  

Through its accelerated funding mechanism, the partnership also provides rapid funding for education in crises. In mid-December 2019, the GPE Board made a major commitment to scale up this mechanism, unlocking up to $250 million over the next two years in funding for countries facing crises.

Delivering more and better by working together

We recognize that there are also opportunities for our organizations, working together, to provide more effective, efficient and aligned support. At the Global Refugee Forum today we will pledge to improve the coordination and financing of our efforts.

We will support governments and country-level partners to coordinate and align the planning, financing, and delivery of education assistance to refugees and their host communities.

We are committed to publishing a strategy outlining how this commitment will be operationalized next year and to reviewing our efforts annually and publishing an overview of progress detailing where, when and how we have worked together. We pledge to report on these efforts at the second Global Refugee Forum in 2023.

But international organizations working better together will not on their own deliver on the promise of the Global Compact on Refugees to ensure that host-country national education systems provide access to education for all refugees.

More funding still required

The international community needs to mobilize additional funding to respond to the refugee crisis, especially for education. Between now and 2021 an additional $1 billion in funding must be secured to meet Education Cannot Wait’s agreed goals to support 8.9 million children caught up in crises.

The World Bank continues to support refugee education. The active World Bank education portfolio in fragile settings and refugee hosting countries is $5.65 billion, out of which $4.54 billion is IDA (International Development Association – one of the largest sources of concessional  funding to eliminate extreme poverty in the world’s poorest countries.) An additional $2.6 billion in operations are under preparation and expected over the next year.

As the world’s largest fund for education in developing countries, the Global Partnership for Education’s forthcoming replenishment will be a further test of the donor community’s commitment to supporting education in the world’s most needy countries. Since its last replenishment in 2018, GPE has raised $2.6 billion in international finance and leveraged $30 billion in domestic financing to support education for the world’s most marginalized children. However there is still an enormous financing need. GPE’s next replenishment, in mid-2021, will be crucial to ensure continued support for inclusive, quality education, including for refugees and host communities.

Despite commitments by some donors, such as the European Union which now spends 10 percent of its humanitarian funding on education, the global figure still stands at just 2 percent. The poor cousin of an underfunded and overstretched humanitarian system, education urgently needs more support.

Progress is possible

We all share a collective obligation to the 3.7 million refugee children who are not in school. They are not responsible for the conflict that has driven them out of their respective countries. And they have a legal right to an education – a right that doesn’t end in times of emergency.

We are confident that it is possible to provide a quality education to every refugee child and we are committed to supporting countries hosting refugees in securing the necessary financing to do so.

On the occasion of the Global Refugee Forum we urge countries to support the world’s refugees and the countries which host them in committing to do everything we can to deliver the commitments to education in the Global Compact on Refugees.




Christina Manas, a 13-year-old South Sudanese refugee, studies in grade five at Baratuku settlement in northern Uganda. Photo UNHCR

At the Global Refugee Forum, Education Cannot Wait commits to investing in multi-year programmes for refugees and host-community children

As part of our commitment to support refugee education, at the Global Refugee Forum, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) pledges to: Facilitate and invest in multi-year programmes for refugee and host-community children to access quality education, particularly in secondary education.

Taking as a model the ECW-facilitated Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities in Uganda, ECW pledges to facilitate and invest in similar multi-year resilience programmes (MYRPs) that ensure that refugee and other forcibly-displaced children and youth, as well as children and youth from affected host communities, are fully included and have access to quality education, including in national programmes.

Moreover, ECW pledges to ensure that such programmes have a strong secondary-education component, including by providing funds for secondary education in MYRP countries through any established UNHCR internal funding mechanism specifically designated for secondary education.

With this pledge, ECW seeks to mobilize support for refugee and host-community children and youth to be able to complete their education, so that they can successfully transition to becoming self-sufficient as adults.