In the 2000s, the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) decided to replicate its successful model of bringing civil society organizations together. But this time it was at the national, regional, and global level, gradually giving rise to the Civil Society Education Fund funded with US$70.3 million by the Global Partnership for Education.
The CSEF was anchored in the belief that alliances and coalitions have the power to bring about change. For 10 years, the CSEF was a unique and ambitious global program that supported citizen engagement in education sector policy, planning, budgeting and monitoring.
It has also helped civil society organizations come together to build diverse national coalitions – and hold their governments to account for commitments to education. GCE went from supporting 44 coalitions in 2009 to 63 coalitions worldwide by 2019.
The early years
GCE and the World Education Forum 2000
The history of the CSEF is not complete without credit to the movers and shakers of civil society who convened in 1999 to organize civil society in education: ActionAid, Oxfam International, Education International and the Global March Against Child Labor. All came together to form the Global Campaign for Education (GCE).
GCE was quickly recognized as the legitimate representative of the 300 NGOs that assembled in Dakar in the build-up to the World Education Forum in 2000 and “became the de facto representative of the NGO position” in the Education for All - Fast Track Initiative (EFA-FTI, former name of GPE) and other external policy spaces.
The work of GCE focused on establishing national education networks, with an aim to secure global education financing commitments, reconfirm the status and importance of teachers for achieving EFA goals and protect children’s rights.
2009 - 2012: Phase I - The birth of CSEF
In 2008, aid efficiency discussions were high on the agenda. EFA-FTI had promised ‘No countries seriously committed to Education for All will be thwarted in their achievement of this goal by a lack of resources.’
To find funding for national coalition to engage in policy dialogue around EFA, GCE submitted a proposal to the EFA-FTI to support national education coalitions (NECs) in 45 partner countries across Asia and the Pacific, Africa and Latin America.
These broad-based alliances of civil society would include local and national NGOs, teacher unions, parents' groups, community-based organizations, faith groups and many others who came together with the common interest of advancing education for all in their country. CSEF was approved for two years in December 2008. GCE was the hosting agency to oversee three regional CSEF windows in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
CSEF I proved to be a unique experience for CSOs committed to education advocacy at multiple levels. The reach of funds enabled GCE and its partners to strengthen the capacities of 45 national coalitions.
According to CSEF Independent Evaluation report, the CSEF ‘...has been able to articulate, capacitate and empower a range of civil society networks advocating quality education all around the world…’