Last week, I presented Christos Stylianides, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, with a letter signed by NGOs from around the world calling on global leaders to back an innovate finance facility for education capable of ensuring Sustainable Development Goal 4 is met. Before the meeting, I had to think about how best to pitch an International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) that could leverage $10 billion annually. Is it about the long-term economic benefit of investing in education. How about achieving the SDGs? Or is it about getting every child in emergency situations in school and learning?
Like me, campaigners from NGOs around the world are heading in to meetings with their representatives to call for action on education. I was walking in to the European Commission building in Brussels, whilst others are handing in letters and securing their own meetings. Together we are contacting every country and organisation that will be present at the crucial G20 meeting in Germany in July. Our challenge is to get global education on the agenda and our aim is for world leaders to back a call for the establishment of a new finance facility that has the potential to fill the funding gap needed to get every girl and boy in school.
Two years ago, nearly 200 countries signed up to “ensure inclusive and quality education” for every single girl and boy on the planet by 2030. The leaders pledging support for the education Sustainable Development Goal made a clear and historic promise to children. But let’s be honest – there are few world leaders who sense any genuine pressure to deliver on a promise in 2030, especially when faced with so many other global challenges.
So how do we convince world leaders to act now and invest in global education? A large group of NGOs and civil society organisations – including Theirworld, Save the Children, ONE, World Vision, VSO, AVAAZ and Global Citizen – have come together to tackle this challenge. This week they took the first step and set out their demands calling on world leaders to help launch a new way of providing the funding needed to educate those millions of children and give them a better chance in life.
Today, there is a global financial crisis for education. Around the world, there is currently less than $10 per child per year made available in aid for education, barely enough for a textbook. Unless we act now to put in place the funding needed to get every child in school, we can write-off the promise of the education Sustainable Development Goal before it has barely started.
Not enough is being spent on education aid as amounts have stagnated in recent years. Its share in total aid (ODA) has fallen since 2002. And at present, aid intended for the education of refugees accounts for less than 2% of all humanitarian aid. This vast gap in funding will require an ambitious funding plan on a scale never seen before in global education. These are huge numbers, but we know what must come next.
By 2020, we need to see the following three steps in place to ensure that we can achieve SDG4 by 2030.
First, Governments of low- and middle-income countries must expand their domestic tax base and increase education spending to 5.8 % of GDP.
Second, donor countries need to urgently commit a greater share of development aid to education reaching a minimum of 15% total aid. Moreover, these funds must be used more efficiently through multilateral institutions, and this begins with fully funding the Education Cannot Wait fund and the Global Partnership for Education.
And third, the G20 and World Bank must lend their support to an International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) that could fill the education financing gap and unlock more than $10 billion annually for education by 2020.
We can all agree that governments should be investing 5.8% of their GDP in educating their own population as education is a proven determinant in the future economic growth of a country. And we can also all agree that donors should invest 15% of their aid on education. This is a no-brainer when you realise we cannot achieve the other Sustainable Development Goals without education, especially through the immense benefits of educating an entire generation of girls.
But even if these two steps are fully achieved, there would still be a funding gap. This means that a big ticket item missing is the leveraging of additional funds. Why is this important? At the moment, if a country wants to educate all its children and doesn’t have the finances to pay for teachers and school equipment, then the only way to fully fund education would be to borrow money on the commercial markets at 4-8% interest. These rates are enough to place almost any country in crippling debt. Thankfully, countries aren’t taking up this option. But this still leaves their children out-of-school.
This is why more than 25 NGOs and civil society organisations have come together and added their names to an open letter to G20 leaders. The letter says “A transformational shift is needed in the way we invest in education systems if we want a safe, secure and prosperous future for the next generation.” The organisations call on the G20 to “keep your promise to the next generation of young people and call for the IFFEd to be established by 2018 G20 meeting in Argentina in order to unlock greater financing for education.”
A new International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd), as recommended by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, would provide low- and lower-middle income countries with more attractive packages to finance education and bridge the funding gap needed to make a real difference. The new Facility could offer loans at 0% and allow countries to pay back instalments over a long period – such a long time, in fact, that they would be able to see returns before the repayment period was over. And perhaps most notably, for the poorest countries or those impacted by emergencies, the full amount could be paid by donors.
Establishing the facility is only possible now due to this period of historically low interest rates which can be used to leverage more funds. So the time is now for the G20 to call for the establishment of an International Finance Facility for Education capable of filling the education financing gap and unlocking more than $10 billion annually by 2020.
If nothing changes, then by 2030 more than 800 million of the world’s 1.6 billion young people will lack the basic skills necessary for work. Of these 800 million, 200 million will have never stepped foot in a classroom. These are dangerous and costly predictions in an already unstable world.
Ben Hewitt is Campaigns Director at Theirworld.