GPE’s Financing Conference: a high point of global political will for education
In this blog post, GPE CEO Alice Albright highlights that the most immediate result of the GPE Financing Conference is the demonstration of significant political commitment to finance education and the recognition that GPE is the essential catalyst for making progress towards achieving SDG 4.
March 01, 2018 by Alice Albright, GPE Secretariat
9 minutes read
Emmanuel Macron and Macky Sall arrive at the GPE Financing Conference. Dakar, February 2018. Credit: GPE/Heather Shuker
The GPE Financing Conference gathered developing and donor countries, multilateral organizations, civil society, private sector, and philanthropic foundations in Dakar. It was the first time a donor and developing country co-hosted such an event, symbolizing the spirit of true partnership, which is the essence of GPE.
Credit: GPE/Heather Shuker

Over the past two years, global momentum has grown steadily for significantly more investment in education to give hundreds of millions of children the opportunity to thrive. That momentum reached a historic peak on February 1-2, 2018, in Dakar, Senegal, where the Global Partnership for Education’s Financing Conference was held.

I think I speak for most people who attended the conference when I say that there was a palpable urgency and energy in the air at the conference that I’ve seldom witnessed before.

It was the first time that an education financing conference was co-hosted by a G7 leader, French President Emmanuel Macron, and the leader of a developing country, Senegal’s President Macky Sall. Both presidents deserve enormous thanks for their leadership and commitment to ensuring that the conference was a success.

An incredible partnership

We’re grateful also to the more than 1,200 participants who traveled to Dakar, including 10 heads of state and more than 100 government ministers, leaders from UNESCO, UNICEF, UNAIDS, UNHCR, the World Bank, civil society, philanthropic foundations and the private sector. And special thanks to Rihanna, GPE’s Global Ambassador supported by Global Citizen, who amped up the excitement through her superb public advocacy for GPE leading up to and at the podium of the Dakar event.

The most immediate result of the Financing Conference is a demonstration of unprecedented global political will for education financing and a widespread recognition that the Global Partnership for Education is the essential catalyst for making tangible progress toward the Sustainable Development Goal of educating the world’s children by 2030.  

By the time GPE Board Chair Julia Gillard adjourned the conference, donor commitments to GPE added up to US$2.3 billion for the period 2018-2020. That’s a substantial increase in funding compared to the US$1.3 billion contributed over the past three years. But this is just the beginning of a process as several donor governments have already indicated their intention to pledge further funds over the next three years.

Developing countries break new ground

The truly remarkable story in Dakar, though, was the extent to which developing country partners stepped up with commitments to raise funding for education from their own domestic budgets.

More than 50 developing countries announced they would increase their public expenditures for education for the period 2018-2020 to a total of US$110 billion, compared to US$80 billion between 2015 and 2017.

GPE encourages developing countries to increase their share of education spending to 20% of their overall budget. Of those governments who committed at the conference, more than two-thirds will reach that goal by 2020.

Significant increases in donor contributions

It is testament to GPE’s effective work and a reflection of the growing momentum for education that almost all donor governments increased their financial contributions to GPE for 2018-2020, and several announced significant increases. France increased its contribution by more than tenfold from €17 million to €200 million; Canada and Ireland both doubled their annual contributions; the European Union will provide €337.5 million, which includes a top-up of €100 million; the UK increased its contribution by more than 50 percent; Denmark, Sweden, and Norway all pledged major new support in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Also, the United Arab Emirates joined GPE, becoming the first Arab and Middle East donor country with a significant initial pledge of US$100 million. The Netherlands and Spain announced they were renewing their partnership with GPE after a three-year absence.

We were pleased to welcome for the first time at a GPE replenishment conference a senior representative of the government of China, who pledged collaboration with GPE in the future.

Our host Senegal demonstrated its leadership in global education with an extraordinary announcement by President Sall that his country would become GPE’s first developing country donor with a contribution of US$2 million.

More money for children’s education in developing countries

With these increased commitments GPE has the opportunity to help its developing country partners strengthen and transform their education systems and almost double the funding available to improve education for more children in an increasing number of countries – through grants, innovation, knowledge exchange, advocacy and support to social accountability.

New data initiative with the private sector

We are also excited that the GPE Financing Conference in Dakar opened a new chapter in our engagement with the business community. Together with several private sector and global development partners, GPE launched the Education Data Solutions Roundtable to improve developing countries’ capacity to gather and make use of accurate, comprehensive and timely data.  Such data will help countries better target their resources and understand where improvements are needed in their education systems.

The roundtable will bring seven corporate partners – Mastercard, HP, Econet, Intel, Ecobank, Microsoft and Tableau – together with other stakeholders in development, to pursue innovative solutions, creative thinking and modern technology to drive improvements in education data management at community, regional, national and global levels. The initiative is part of GPE’s knowledge and innovation exchange work.

The Global Business Coalition for Education announced an initial pledge to our country partners of US$15 million over three years from four companies that have agreed to collectively reduce costs of technology services such as satellite technology for schools, data collection, monitoring of the delivery of school supplies and GPS technology. The participating companies include Avanti Communications, 2-Track Solutions, HP, and SafeBus.

The beginning of the next phase for global education

The Financing Conference was the culmination of extraordinary commitment, energy and smart thinking of countless people, countries and organizations – far more than I can possibly recognize in this brief space.

We’re immensely grateful to everyone who had a hand in making this complex event happen and the many others who helped over the last few years raise the profile of global education in capitals around the world.

Now that we’ve caught our collective breath after the conference, we’re ready for the hard work in the months and years ahead. I look forward to working with all of you to translate our shared enthusiasm and energy into positive change for millions of children who deserve a quality education – no matter where they live.

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