Civil society

Civil society organizations help shape education policies, monitor programs and hold governments accountable for their duty to fulfill the right to education.

“We know that without the Global Partnership for Education, it would have been difficult to have a multi-stakeholder dialogue mechanism. Today, this has become the case in most of the countries where GPE is active. Without GPE, the exchange of experiences that has made us true citizens of the world would not have been easy.”

Cheikh Mbow
Executive Director, Coalition of Organizations in Synergie for the Defense of Public Education (COSYDEP), Senegal

Role at the global level

GPE’s vision of a quality education for every child aligns closely with what many education CSOs are working towards.

CSOs actively contribute to GPE at the global level through the Board constituencies of southern and northern civil society. Civil society Board members consult their constituencies on GPE strategies, policies and grant decisions.

CSOs are also important advocacy partners for GPE, supporting national, regional and global campaigns to raise political will and resources for education and for GPE. For example, civil society partners were key partners in the Raise Your Hand campaign, which culminated in the Global Education Summit in 2021. GPE also partners with civil society to influence global public policy processes.

Role at the country level

CSO partners have a critical role to play to ensure equitable access to education, especially for marginalized groups. They have important connections to communities and schools that help bring relevance and accountability into the policy dialogue.

For GPE it is therefore important that national CSO representatives engage in policy dialogue in local education groups, weighing in on priority reform selection through the partnership compact process, supporting joint sector monitoring and providing technical assistance and programmatic support to promote learning, experience sharing, advocacy and accountability. Some international CSOs also serve as grant agents for GPE funding.

CSOs are indispensable to achieving education system transformation as envisioned in the GPE 2025 strategic plan. An important component of the four drivers of system transformation is inclusive sector coordination, which entails active participation of civil society organizations in local education groups and other forums for policy dialogue.

Here is an example from Nepal and Kenya on how CSOs are helping implement GPE 2025.

GPE principles for effective local education groups

CSOs engage specifically in GPE grant processes and can give feedback to the government, grant agent or local education group if they have information on implementation issues.

GPE has provided funding to CSOs to organize and build capacity since the Civil Society Education Fund (CSEF) was established in 2009. This fund supported CSO coalitions established through the Global Campaign for Education (GCE); its successor fund Education Out Loud has a broader reach including support for social accountability.

The Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX) offers civil society organizations a platform and means to share knowledge, engage research, and inform policy dialogue and practice with evidence.


In 2019, GPE’s Board of Directors adopted an Accountability Matrix to clarify what is expected from different GPE stakeholders and enable the partnership to achieve its vision and goals.

The matrix recognizes that CSOs are accountable to the populations and constituencies they serve. As GPE partners committed to the partnership’s aspirations, they also have accountabilities to the partnership.

View accountabilities

Engagement in practice

CSO engagement in local education groups depends on the conditions, arrangements and politics in each country. Connecting with other CSOs and with coalitions is a good way to get started.

The Global Campaign for Education’s website has information on over 120 national and regional CSO coalitions, which can be filtered by country and region. CSOs can also gain a lot by collaborating with other education stakeholders and engaging in formal coordination mechanisms, as outlined in this brief by GPE.

CSOs can also benefit from engaging with the GPE Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX), which funds and shares proven solutions to key education challenges as well as new research to fill knowledge gaps in GPE partner countries.

The GPE Secretariat as well as coordinating agencies have been helpful in promoting the access of CSOs to local education groups in many contexts.

It can be challenging to find the right balance between partnering with governments and holding them accountable. Strategies and priorities must be context-based, driven by CSOs themselves. The GPE Charter, strategy and principles can be helpful for guidance and advocacy.

Below are two examples of CSOs engagement in practice:

Additionally, here are two resources to help guide civil society’s participation in education sector planning:

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