EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT MOBILIZES AN ADDITIONAL US$23.6 MILLION TO INCREASE SUPPORT FOR VULNERABLE CHILDREN AND YOUTH – ALREADY AFFECTED BY ARMED CONFLICT, FORCED DISPLACEMENT AND PROTRACTED CRISES – NOW DOUBLY HIT BY COVID-19 PANDEMIC

World leaders today committed to expand education in emergency aid for children and youth impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – girls and boys already suffering the brunt of armed conflict, forced displacement, climate-change induced disasters and protracted crises – with a focus on the most marginalized, including girls, refugees and children with disabilities.

With new contributions from Germany, the United States, Norway and the Netherlands, the total funds mobilized to date by Education Cannot Wait surpass US$650 million.

17 September 2020, New York – World leaders today committed to expand education in emergency aid for children and youth impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – girls and boys already suffering the brunt of armed conflict, forced displacement, climate-change induced disasters and protracted crises – with a focus on the most marginalized, including girls, refugees and children with disabilities.

The new political and financial pledges were made during today’s global, high-level event “The Future of Education is Here for Those Left Furthest Behind”, organized by Education Cannot Wait (ECW) on the margins of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. The event was co-hosted by Canada, Colombia, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Two dozen political leaders, policymakers, influencers and youth advocates took the stage during the event, including education ministers from Burkina Faso, Colombia, Ethiopia and Somalia, as well as youth and teachers from the Greek islands, Lebanon, the State of Palestine, Syria, Uganda and Venezuela. They stressed the urgent need to collaborate and redouble efforts to avoid losing hard-won gains and reversing the progress recorded in recent years in political commitment and financing for education in emergencies and protracted crises.

Dr. Maria Flachsbarth, German Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, announced an additional contribution of 8 million euros (US$9.5 million) to ECW in 2020, commending the Fund’s rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months. “Thanks to ECW, partner countries have received urgently needed support very quickly. For many countries, it was the only support they received,” she said. “I hope that other partners will also commit more funding, because solidarity and cooperation are more important now than ever before if we want to ensure that we leave no one behind,” she added.

Working with a broad range of partners, ECW has disbursed over $60 million in emergency grants in 35 crisis-affected countries since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with an emphasis on reaching the most marginalized children and youth, including refugee, internally displaced and host communities girls and boys. ECW’s COVID-19 response encompasses the full scope of needs of a child’s well-being, including mental health and psychosocial support, and improved access to water, sanitation and hygiene and nutrition. Participants to the meeting stressed the importance of such a holistic approach to achieve education outcomes in crises.

“The United States strongly believes that education can be lifesaving and life-changing. That is why we are continuously striving to ensure that a focus on education is better incorporated into crisis responses around the globe and ensuring that the education provided also supports each child’s broader well-being,” said Carol Thompson O’Connell, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, U.S. Department of State, as she announced an additional contribution of $5 million to ECW.

More than 1.5 billion learners worldwide had their education disrupted at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the coronavirus continues to upend entire communities, the economy, and social and education systems, children and youth who were already living in crisis settings are at particular risk of falling behind and being further marginalized. Out-of-school girls face increased risk of sexual violence, child marriage and early pregnancies. Children and youth living in extreme poverty, precarious conditions and forced displacement may never return to school – this is particularly true for refugee children and youth, and even more so for adolescent refugee girls.

“The story about how humanity handled COVID-19 is being written now – and education will figure in the conclusion. Let it not be the story of a lost generation – nor of a community that abandoned its promise to ‘leave no one behind’ when push came to shove. Let it rather be the story of a global community that came together to ensure that the right to learning was upheld for all – also for the COVID Generation,” said Dag-Inge Ulstein, Norway’s Minister for International Development, as he announced an additional contribution of NOK 20 million ($2.2 million) to ECW.

Today’s new financial pledges to ECW add to the recent contribution of the Netherlands of 6 million euros ($6.9 million) announced at ECW’s High-Level Steering Group meeting on 11 September, bringing the total funds mobilized by ECW in just four years of operations to over $650 million.

“We must stand by those left furthest behind and move with unprecedented speed, determination and commitment to financing an innovative idea and approach in the multilateral system, in the United Nations, that has proven to work. Education Cannot Wait is no longer a start up fund, but has now turned into a full-fledged global fund, reaching 4.5 million children and youth in crises and forced displacement. ECW enables us all to bring hope to those left furthest behind when they most need us,” said The Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and Chair of the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Steering Group.

Since its inception in 2016, ECW has reached an estimated 4.5 million children and youth with inclusive, quality education in some of the worst humanitarian crises worldwide, half of whom are girls. Building on these achievements, ECW is appealing to public and private donors to urgently mobilize an additional $300 million to respond to the pandemic and other emergencies and protracted crises in the coming months.

“We are grateful to all our partners and stakeholders who form Education Cannot Wait. All results are your results. Today, I want to thank Germany, the United States, Norway and the Netherlands for additional generous financial contributions to Education Cannot Wait – announced during the UN General Assembly week – which allows us to continue with speed during the pandemic,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “At ECW, we believe that crises always lead to new opportunities. It is the choice we make that determines the outcome. We must all chose to give it our all and make Sustainable Development Goal 4 a reality for those left furthest behind. The future of their education must be now.”

Today’s event was also an opportunity for ECW to roll out a new donation feature through video communications platform Zoom in partnership with online fundraising platform Pledgeling. During the event, the audience was invited to make and view live donations to support Education Cannot Wait’s work for children and youth caught in conflict and crises across the globe, raising over $14,000 in just two hours. Donations can still be made at www.pledgeling.com/ECW or, in the US, by texting ‘ECW’ to 707070.

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Note to Editors

Click here to watch the full recording of the high-level event “The Future of Education is Here for Those Left Furthest Behind.”

Learn more on the high-level event: www.educationcannotwait.org/unga2020/

Share on Social: With the hashtag #EducationCannotWait and #UNGA75.


About Education Cannot Wait (ECW):
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.

On Twitter, please follow: @EduCannotWait  @YasmineSherif1  @KentPage

Additional information available at: www.educationcannotwait.org

To support our efforts and donate to Education Cannot Wait, text ‘ECW’ to 707070 (*from the US and Canada only) or visit www.pledgeling.com/ECW.

For press inquiries:
Anouk Desgroseilliers, adesgroseilliers@un-ecw.org, +1-917-640-6820
Kent Page, kpage@unicef.org, +1-917-302-1735

For other inquiries: info@un-ecw.org

Dutch Minister Sigrid Kaag highlights the vital importance of education in crisis

The Netherlands is a core contributor to Education Cannot Wait, with US$24 million in signed contributions to date. At the heart of this partnership between the new global fund for education in crisis and the Netherlands is the work of the charismatic Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag.

37238388254_f6d2e9b1d9_kPARTNER VOICES Q&A

‘In times of crisis, education offers stability, security, prospects for the future, and opportunities to acquire vital knowledge and skills’

As part of its efforts to tackle the root causes of poverty and instability – and improve young people’s prospects the world over – the Netherlands plans to expand its activities to support education in protracted crisis and emergencies.

In partnership with Education Cannot Wait, the Dutch Government is focusing its educational support on global hotspots, including targeted efforts in West African Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and the Middle East and North Africa, along with continued support to the Africa’s Great Lakes region, and Afghanistan and Bangladesh in Asia.

The Netherlands is a core contributor to Education Cannot Wait, with US$24 million in signed contributions to date. At the heart of this partnership between the new global fund for education in crisis and the Netherlands is the work of the charismatic Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag.

A leading and high-profile global advocate for education in crisis with a broad and deep experience in development and multilateralism, Mrs. Kaag was appointed as the Dutch Minister in October 2017 after working for 25 years as a senior leader in the United Nations.

Minister Kaag went to university in Utrecht, Cairo, Exeter and Oxford. After finishing her studies – which resulted in a M.Phil. in International Relations and a M.A. in Middle East Studies – she worked for Shell International in London and at the UN section of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs before joining the United Nations in 1994.

A well-informed leader, Minister Kaag has served in numerous senior positions with the United Nations, starting with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Among others, she served as the Chief of Staff with UNICEF, and as Assistant Secretary-General for UNDP in New York. Minister Kaag subsequently was appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General to serve in two successive political leadership positions.

From October 2013 to September 2014, as UN Under-Secretary-General, she led the mission to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria. In 2015, she was appointed the UN Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator in Lebanon.

Learn more about Minister Kaag’s development cooperation agenda in her policy document on Investing in Global Prospects.

Girls learning in an Education Cannot Wait supported classroom in Afghanistan (Photo ECW).
Girls learning in an Education Cannot Wait supported learning space in Afghanistan (Photo ECW).

Why must education in crisis be made a priority in order to achieve gender equality, the Sustainable Development Goals, peace and stability?

In times of crisis, education offers stability, security, prospects for the future, and opportunities to acquire vital knowledge and skills. If we forget the 75 million children and youth who are living in countries affected by emergencies and crises, we will not only fail to attain SDG 4 (to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning and opportunities for all) but also fall short of other SDGs. Education gives people greater economic opportunities. Access to quality education is also key to gender equality: it helps us combat child labour, child marriage and sexual and gender-based violence, and enhances the ability of women and girls to make decisions about their own lives and bodies.

In places like Afghanistan, where 2.2 million girls have been left behind and lack reliable and safe access to education, Education Cannot Wait is a timely global fund as it bridges the humanitarian-development divide and places gender as a priority of this pioneering work. The empowerment of girls and adolescent girls during an emergency and crisis through quality education is essential to achieving all the other Sustainable Development Goals. It is also essential in advancing peace processes and sustaining that peace.

Elisabeth, 52 years old, teaches 4th graders at a temporary learning space in the Kaga Bandoro’s IDP site where Education Cannot Wait is currently deploying educational support for displaced children. (UNICEF/Sokhin)
Elisabeth, 52 years old, teaches 4th graders at a temporary learning space in Kaga Bandoro’s IDP site in CAR, where Education Cannot Wait is currently deploying educational support for displaced children. (UNICEF/Sokhin)

As a former senior UN official, can you explain the contribution that education makes to realizing the UN’s values and to pursuing multilateral efforts? Specifically, how will Education Cannot Wait, a new global fund hosted by UNICEF that seeks to mobilize US$1.8 billion by 2021 to reach 8.9 million children and young people living in crisis, help us achieve these goals?  

Education makes a particular contribution to a UN core value by giving children and young people the opportunity to live decent lives and find decent jobs. Education is also a human right, so investing in education is the right thing to do. Furthermore, education brings prosperity: one extra year of education raises individual income by 10 per cent.

In times of crises, education provides safety and hope. As a rapidly growing fund with a focus on results, Education Cannot Wait contributes to multilateral efforts to be more responsive and to working together across the humanitarian and development spectrum to achieve lasting impact. As a broker and catalyst for change, this new Fund will be an essential actor in working toward more inclusive and equitable education for all. With the support of Education Cannot Wait’s donors, including the Netherlands, this is happening in places like the Lake Chad region, where 3.5 million children are at risk. That’s more people than the populations of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague combined. To address this issue, the Government of Chad is demonstrating a strong willingness to provide educational support for refugees.

But there simply aren’t enough resources to deal with the influx. To avoid negative cycles of poverty, violence and extremism, the international community needs to come together, in partnership with organizations like Education Cannot Wait, to address this issue. And we must address it not as a series of individual challenges, but as an interlinked problem that requires coordinated responses across the human-development spectrum. This is one of the unique advantages of a global fund such as Education Cannot Wait. They can bring these stakeholders together and foster more agile and integrated approaches to our educational responses to crisis.

How can the New Way of Working, through joint programming and linking humanitarian aid to development, be used to deliver education in crisis and emergencies? And what role can Education Cannot Wait play in linking relief to development in the education sector during protracted crises?

Displaced people are displaced for an average of 17 years, so this is not a short-term challenge. There is an urgent need for humanitarian and development actors to join forces. I value Education Cannot Wait’s role in meeting this need and prioritizing education. By fostering development in humanitarian settings, Education Cannot Wait invests in young people’s values, skills and capacities. Their generation has a crucial role to play in shaping post-crisis societies. That makes them crucial actors in development. Think about the Rohingya children that are living in dire conditions in the refugee camps of Bangladesh. Around 400,000 children here lack access to education and live in dangerous environments where an education can mean the difference between safety and peril, and where sometimes the only food they will get in a day will be at a learning center. With Dutch funding and the contributions of growing group of donors, Education Cannot Wait is working with a multiple partners including UNICEF, UNCHR, UNESCO, Save the Children, Friendship and BRAC to expand learning centers in Bangladesh. This means children will have safe places to learn, play and grow. But we need to go beyond just first response, and the new US$12 million allocation from the Fund that will support 88,500 refugees will be central in efforts to create a long-term resilience programme in Bangladesh.

You are a champion of education – especially education for the world’s most vulnerable children. Can you explain the importance of education to the Dutch development strategy?

Dutch policy takes SDG 4 as a starting point. Not only is education a human right; it should also lead to empowerment. By increasing people’s autonomy and capacity for self-determination, education should provide equal opportunities for all. My policy gives priority to the poorest people and the most marginalized and excluded, including women and girls, young refugees and refugee children. It focuses on appropriate education that includes three sets of interrelated skills: basic numeracy and literacy (foundation skills), life skills (transferable skills), and technical and vocational skills. All three skill sets are necessary for the personal development and empowerment that make it possible to find a decent job and have a decent life. It is important that transferable skills are included in education in humanitarian situations through Education Cannot Wait-financed programmes.

Girls are being supported in Chad with Education Cannot Wait funding. (Devaki Erande/JRS)
Girls are being supported in Chad with Education Cannot Wait funding and the contributions of the Dutch Government. (Devaki Erande/JRS)

As a government minister and former senior UN official, can you share some reflections on education and SDG 4 in achieving the 2030 Agenda for those left furthest behind: refugees, girls and children with disabilities?  How is SDG 4 connected to the other SDGs?

In my opinion, a great injustice is being done to those left furthest behind. I believe that education, decent work and gender equality, particularly for young people, are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.

I would like to congratulate Education Cannot Wait on its strong gender strategy, especially with regard to SDG 5 (to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls). I look forward to seeing this strategy implemented over the upcoming months and years as the Fund brings its initial efforts to scale and expands its reach with both expanded first emergency responses that are responsive to the unique needs of girls, as well as multi-year programming that will empower girls for generations to come. This can only happen by increasing women’s participation in political decision making and leadership, by increasing economic empowerment and improving the economic environment for women and girls, by preventing and eliminating gender-based violence, and by strengthening the role of women in conflict prevention and peace processes.

On the way to school in Chad (Devaki Erande/JRS)
On the way to school in Chad (Devaki Erande/JRS)

Do you have any additional comments?

Because we know that the 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved without partnerships, I would like to stress the importance of SDG 17 (to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development). I look forward to seeing even more complementarity and partnership between Education Cannot Wait and other key actors such as the Global Partnership for Education. Only in partnership can we ensure that every child and young person has access to appropriate, quality education by 2030.

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