Working with Canada to Secure the Future of Children in Poor Countries
Reflections from Alice Albright's recent visit to Canada
March 05, 2014 by Alice Albright, Global Partnership for Education
6 minutes read
A boy writes on the blackboard in Burundi

This past week I was fortunate to travel to Canada for my second snowy trip within a month’s time. This trip to Ottawa gave me the opportunity to meet with parliamentarians, senior government representatives, civil society partners and media to discuss Canada’s engagement with and the progress of the Global Partnership for Education.

Education as a force for change

While in Ottawa, I was pleased to hear about the Canadian government’s strong commitment to education. I was buoyed to hear education described numerous times as “the next important piece” to the impressive work in maternal, newborn and child health that the government has championed since 2010. There is widespread recognition among all stakeholders that education is a foundational sector that leverages investments in other sectors and has an unequivocally positive impact on a range of long-term development outcomes.

One senior official I met described the need to move from a vision of education as a recurring cost to an investment in change, and I could not agree with this sentiment more.

So many Canadian partners involved in education

I was also privileged to learn more about the work of many partners in Canada, including the Aga Khan Foundation, UNICEF Canada, Plan Canada, and others. I was impressed by the passion and commitment of a group of Canadian organizations who have come together in support of the Global Partnership for Education’s replenishment campaign which aims at securing sufficient new funding for education.  It is a critical moment for the global community to reinvigorate and reaffirm a commitment to financing education for all children.

It was especially moving to meet with representatives from GRAN Advocacy, a network of grandmothers and ‘grand-others’ committed to supporting and amplifying the voice of grandmothers in Africa who are caring for a generation of children left orphaned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Their demand for more and better education are perhaps the most compelling and I look forward to working more closely with this group.

Long-standing support for education

The work of the Global Partnership is very much aligned to the strategic objectives of the Canadian government’s support for children and youth. The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) supports education initiatives in countries such as Haiti, Afghanistan and Burkina Faso that address access to basic education (especially for girls), improves the quality of education, and increases learning opportunities and life skills training. In addition, under the safe and secure futures path, DFATD works to ensure that schools are safe and free from violence and abuse.

Canada is a founding member of the Global Partnership (established as the Fast Track Initiative in 2002), and has a strong track record of supporting education. The Canadian government’s investments in education reached a high of 12% of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2010, with the bulk of that going to basic education in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Investments in education continue to be approximately 8% of ODA.

Since 2002, Canada has contributed $101 million to the Global Partnership, representing approximately 3.5% of GPE funds. The government of Canada also demonstrates strong commitment to the work of the Global Partnership by sitting as an alternate on our board of directors. Canada is also an active member on the board’s Governance, Ethics, Risk and Finance Committee.

Our future with Canada

I very much look forward to continued dialogue with all of these stakeholders in Canada as we collectively march towards the GPE replenishment conference in Brussels at the end of June.  With impressive results at our back, a powerful new funding model ahead of us, and a collective will to make a transformational difference in the lives of millions of children and youth, I am confident that the government of Canada will join the Global Partnership in ensuring that we meet our ambitious target to raise US$3.5 billion for the GPE Fund and increase domestic, bilateral and multilateral financing for education.

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