Civil society organizations (CSOs) left Dakar optimistic for the next three years. After an extended campaign of engagement, learning and lobbying for increases in education financing around across all continents, the Global Campaign for Education movement celebrates that developing country and donor governments stepped up to the plate by making strong pledges to education financing.
New commitments by developing countries
We saw that the most important commitments were those from developing countries, which amounted approximately to US$30 billion in new funding.
We commend the decisive leadership of host country President Macky Sall, who pledged to increase the share of education spending to 25% of his national budget. Senegal also announced a contribution of US$2 million to GPE, the first African country to do so. We are thrilled to see Senegal setting such a bold example, and we look forward to other developing countries expanding the share of budgets for education and strengthening solidarity for the global movement for education for all.
Donor countries also rose up to the challenge. I draw particular attention to the commitments of the EU, UK, co-host France, Canada, Sweden, Denmark and Norway to the Replenishment fund, who together pledged over US$1.6 billion. The United Arab Emirates’ debut pledge of US$100 million is also to be congratulated. The total pledged by donors for this replenishment period was US$2.3 billion.
Funding must be used for those most in need
This is definitely a win for the global education community and this figure is well above what was pledged in 2014. Nevertheless, momentum needs to be kept high, if GPE is to reach its funding target: US$2 billion per year by 2020. We know that the new and significant commitments made, although groundbreaking, will still not be enough to stem the education crisis. Globally 264 million children and young people remain out of school, most of whom are girls, 617 million children are in school but fail to learn basic skills owing to the poor quality of education they receive and over 700 million adults cannot read or write, two thirds of whom are women.
It is very important that these resources reach those who need it most, ensuring that over the next three years, more boys, girls, youth and adults – particularly those from disadvantaged groups – can ensure their right to education is fully met.
We were pleased to see that discourse about inclusion and equity were pushed to the forefront of this year’s Replenishment. These words must be implemented into meaningful action over the next three years.
Our work continues
We acknowledge the challenges this entails, but we must use this momentum to affect positive change. This is why we, as civil society, will remain active and vigilant in tracking GPE pledges and monitoring SDG 4 implementation. CSOs are ready to move forward in this role, which we debated in depth at our own event, named “Sustainably Financing Education”. This event was co-convened by GCE, Africa Network Campaign for Education For All (ANCEFA) and Coalition des Organisations en Synergie pour la Défense de l’Education Publique (COSYDEP) with support from the German BACKUP Initiative - Education in Africa (GIZ).
Held on the eve of the financing conference, we met not only to analyze the education financing scenario and draw recommendations for the Replenishment Conference, but also to prepare for after the conference. In the adopted joint statement we draw attention to key dimensions for ensuring sustainable education financing, including our role in it.
We intend to remain mobilized and continue our advocacy efforts both by engaging high-level political groups such as the G7 and G20 to secure more education financing, as well as holding country partners accountable to the pledges they undertook.
The outcomes from this event were shared with wider audiences at the GPE Partnership Platform on February 1st. Here, GCE presented some of our key concerns for education financing. Among other things, we call for increases of “4 S’s”:
- the Size of national budgets overall (through expanding the tax base);
- the Share of budgets spent on education;
- the Sensitivity of budgets towards equity and quality and
- the Scrutiny of the budgets to ensure accountability.
Domestic resources must be expanded and protected
For achieving increases in the 4 S’s, we believe tax justice is fundamental. Progressive tax reforms must be put in place, and illicit financial flows, tax evasion and avoidance as well as harmful tax incentives - all of which shrink the size of the national tax base - must stop.
These revenues must urgently be directed at stemming the global education crisis, while also ensuring they are earmarked and protected in national budgets, through legal and policy frameworks. You can read more about this in the Compact on Domestic Financing of Education.
We commend Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo, who mirrored this sentiment, stating: “Money is available [in Africa] to fund education. For this, we must eliminate corruption and illicit financial flows.” The case for GPE to focus more on progressive tax reforms was also made by the Norwegian delegate to the conference, Minister for Development Nikolai Astrup.
Education needs to be free and public
Alongside the issue of tax justice, the advent of profit making in and through both public and private education is a central concern that must be addressed, as we see a rising flow of public resources to private business. Not only do we see prominent actors pushing for low-fee private schools- a blow to the right to free public quality education- but also the private sector is increasingly targeting public education systems as profitable markets.
We reject any reforms that might create stratified education systems, and remain resolute that education is a basic human right, which should be publicly funded, free, of high quality, and inclusive of all.
This all said, we are confident that positive changes will be made in the education sector. We are dedicated to assuring funds are spent to advance inclusion, equity and quality in public education systems.