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February 24, 2023
On February 16-17, 2023 ECW, the UN global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, launched a high-level pledging conference to galvanize financing commitments from world leaders to protect and sustain the right to education, particularly in countries affected by humanitarian and political crises.
Held in Geneva, the conference sought to mobilize US$1.5 billion in additional resources from donors, foundations, and high-net-worth individuals to support the delivery of ECW's 2023-2026 strategic plan that aims to reach over 20 million children and adolescents affected by crises around the world.
The two-day conference provided a platform for global leaders to announce financing commitments as well as to convene for discussing key priorities, ideas, and innovations in global education.
17 donors announced pledges to ECW at this event. This included five contributions from debut donors including Italy, Qatar, and Spain. Total commitments amounted to US$816 million, more than half of the organization’s US$1.5 billion target. Key pledges included:
On the second day of the conference, decisionmakers and advocates attended a series of roundtable discussions on the exchange of knowledge and innovation in global education. A range of topics critical to sustaining education were discussed, particularly in relation to recent political crises such as the war in Ukraine and the insurgency in Afghanistan. Key educational priorities discussed included:
Overall, the ECW pledging conference succeeded in raising awareness of the importance of education in crisis and encouraging partnerships between governments, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector to provide education to children affected by crises. The financial commitments made and educational priorities discussed at the conference are a crucial step toward sustaining the right to education in crisis-affected countries. They will help provide millions of children and youth with a lifeline for surviving crises as well as equipping them with the skills needed to build stronger socio-economic conditions for themselves. However, there are three ways in which this conference fell short.
First, despite the significant financial commitments made at the conference, the funding raised still falls short of the resources required to sufficiently support education in emergencies. Funding appeals for education in emergencies have spiked in recent years as a result of the growing number of protracted crises around the world. According to ECW’s Annual Results Report, education in emergencies funding appeals in 2021 alone reached US$2.9 billion, up from US$1.4 billion the previous year. The war in Ukraine, the insurgency in Afghanistan, and the recent earthquakes in Türkiye are expected to widen existing financing gaps for education in emergencies.
Second, given the conference’s heavy focus on funding for education, less attention was paid to the structural challenges that prevent children from accessing education in crisis-affected countries. While funding is vital, it is not by itself sufficient to address the multifaceted challenges that prevent children and young people from accessing education in emergency contexts. Issues such as protracted crises, lack of infrastructure, and inadequate teacher training are among the many structural challenges that need to be addressed through comprehensive policy measures to ensure that education is accessible to all.
Finally, the conference could have done more to address the intersectional nature of contemporary crises and their impact on education. While discussions touched on gender and the importance of prioritizing education for girls and women, other issues that affect education access, such as disability or ethnic and linguistic diversity, received limited attention. A more intersectional approach to education in crises would help to ensure that education is accessible and inclusive for all children.
This year’s ECW high-level pledging conference provided an important platform for elevating education in humanitarian contexts as an important global issue; however, it is important to acknowledge that it is only a first step. Ensuring that every child receives access to quality and equitable education, funding commitments made at the conference must be coupled with comprehensive and intersectional policy solutions that address the complex systemic challenges that prevent access to education.
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