Only a few days since the Global Partnership for Education’s Second Replenishment Conference in Brussels, I’m still struck by what a historic day it was. Before the Conference on June 26, the world had never committed so many material and political resources to bringing a quality education to millions of children in the poorest countries of the world.
As we can see now and will likely be more apparent in the months and years ahead, the Replenishment Conference, hosted by the European Commission, is a major pivot point in the Education for All movement. What the international community accomplished there has simultaneously supercharged our ability to address the tough, yet critical challenge of education, and raised the expectation that we must continue to press on.
On behalf of everyone at the Global Partnership, I’m eternally grateful to the nearly 800 attendees from more than 90 countries – including 40 government ministers, leaders of civil society and multilateral groups that focus on global education, development assistance professionals who work tirelessly on education programs in the poorest countries, major charitable foundation executives, representatives of global businesses eager to promote education, and youth leaders. Their presence and generosity resoundingly declared to the world that education rates among the highest priorities on the global development agenda.
Pledges exceeding expectations
The Conference generated 85 pledges that combine for a total of US$28.5 billion in new commitments for global education for the period 2015 to 2018, far more than we had hoped.
That total is made up of US$2.2 billion in pledges from donor nations, US$26 billion in commitments by developing countries to spend more of their domestic budgets on education, pledges from many civil society organizations and multilaterals, the first two private philanthropic contributions in the Global Partnership’s history, and the first pledge of an innovating financing resource – loan buy-down arrangements from the Islamic Development Bank valued at more than US$400 million.
Even more, the day also featured seven calls to action focused on areas of critical importance to providing a quality education to children in poor countries.
Developing countries led the way
The Conference belonged mostly to developing country partners, which committed record levels of additional funding for education from their domestic budgets. Months ago, we had set a goal of US$16 billion for such commitments. On June 26, our partner countries far exceeded even these ambitious expectations.
This was an inspiring and powerful statement to their own citizens and the rest of the world. By their actions, developing country partners are asserting that they intend to do their share to build education capacity and, over the long run, self-sufficiency as they grow economically and socially stronger. We should all take notice and follow suit.
Pledges from donor countries – Australia, Belgium, Denmark, the European Commission, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States – to the GPE Fund represent an increase of more than US$600 million, or 40 percent, compared to the last replenishment pledging conference in Copenhagen in 2011. It was a powerful start to achieving the goal we set of US$3.5 billion in donor commitments for the Partnership's four-year replenishment period. We’re looking forward to further commitments in the coming months.
As the Global Partnership’s Board Chair, Julia Gillard, noted, the success of the Replenishment Conference sends an important message to the global community. It is, she said, “a vote of confidence in the power of education to lift the lives of millions of children, and is a tribute to far-sighted leadership in our partner countries -- donors and developing country partners alike. No other organization has a partnership structure that has leveraged such substantial funds from developing countries. The Global Partnership for Education provides the long term, systemic support that governments need to build stable, effective education systems."
Calls to Action
As the center of the global education universe on June 26, the Replenishment Conference rallied the hundreds of delegates there around seven specific calls to action that will be the Global Partnership’s focus for the years ahead. Those calls to action, endorsed by Conference delegates, include:
- Because We Promised: Inclusive Quality Education for All Children with Disabilities , which urges the international community to live up to a two-decades-old pledge to give children with disabilities the access they need to attend schools and learn.
- Empowering Teachers, an appeal for more resources to train and support quality teachers, who are critical to successful, quality learning.
- Domestic Resource Mobilization, a call for leveraging greater domestic public investment in education in the coming four years.
- Education Cannot Wait: Protecting Children and Youth’s Right to a Quality Education in Humanitarian Emergencies and Conflict Situations, a pledge to ensure children in fragile contexts their right to continuous and quality education.
- Investing Urgently in Early Childhood Care and Education, which is proven to improve learning outcomes over time.
- Moving Beyond Access: Accelerating Progress for Girls’ Education, which presses for greater gender parity at the primary and secondary school levels, with a special focus on the most disadvantaged girls.
- Strengthening Accountability in Education, an effort to improve and strengthen the engagement of civil society and of data collection to heighten transparency and accountability of education systems.
Some may look at the Replenishment Conference as an end point – a goal unto itself – but it’s a beginning. With a strong, and growing, pool of resources for 2015 to 2018, there’s tremendous opportunity for greater progress in dozens of nations across the globe
It’s an enormous task, one that, on a single day in June, acquired tremendous new momentum. Please join us as we continue to fight for the resources needed to provide a better future for the world’s children.