BRIEFLY: Gordon Brown calls for new global education fund

Former British prime minister Gordon Brown, a co-convenor of the High Level Panel on Education, released a report this week calling for the establishment of an independent global fund for education, to raise the $16 billion needed each year to reach the goal of universal primary education by 2015. “Despite the known impact that it can have on pulling individuals, families and nations out of poverty, education remains low on the international agenda,” a statement by the panel said, “making the promise made to millions of the world’s children increasingly likely to be broken.” The Brown report, titled Delivering on the promise, building opportunity: The case for a Global Fund for Education, relies on many of the findings of the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report. It calls for a new fund that “builds on the considerable achievements” of the Education for All Fast Track Initiative (recently renamed the Global Partnership for Education), which it nevertheless says “has not been successful in galvanising new funding.”



  1. Mr. Brown has been making these statements for a while.

    It would be useful to hear from Mr. Brown what he will do differently in order to raise the 16 billion that he expects. How will he overcome the European financial crisis? The multiple other initiatives seeking attention from the same policymakers? The reservations people have about capacity and governance in low-income countries?

    And if he does succeed, who will administer them? How much will the administration and monitoring cost, what criteria and procedures will be set up?
    It would be useful to get details of his vision.

  2. Of the 77 million children unable to attend primary schools, 25 million are children with disabilities.

    It follows that the goals of Education for All and MDG2 cannot be reached until the UN as well as governments take action to implement their basic human right to free primary education.

    108 governments have now ratified the new UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 24 commits them to make their schools accessible to children with disabilities.

    The Brown report is a breath of fresh air but,like nearly all other UN and world reports, fails to mention disabled children. However, it does emphasise the need to address the challenges posed by the inclusion of ‘marginalised groups’.

    The UN has provided leadership in working for the education of girls. Now is the time to press for action to provide quality education to 77 million girls and boys with disabilities.

    1. You have made some excellent points regarding marginalized groups. I find marginalization can occur across many fronts. Some choose or opt out of the main stream and into the margins while others are forced into the margins – such as the global disabled. Are you speaking of physical disabilities or other disabilities such as learning or developmental disabilities? Regardless, we must become the advocates or voice of the marginalized. Onty then can we bring focus to the issues and hand and influence the masses to include marginalized populations – along with their challenges and contributions for the global good.

      1. UNESCO’s 1994 Salamaca Declaration and Framework for Action set inclusive education for ALL disabled children within the wider framework of Education for All for all marginalised children: eg those excluded from school by poverty, living on the street, forced to work, victims of war, abuse and discrimination against religious or ethnic minorities or because of their gender.

        Despite good progress in reaching EFA and MDG2 targets, especially for girls, not only has very little progress has been reported for disabled children but UN organisations as a whole have so far failed to promote their basic human right to education, with the result that disabled children are overlooked by most member states. Some developing countries have shown that disabled children can be educated in mainstream schools (eg Uganda, Tanzania, Vietnam)

  3. Over the past decade, high-level advocates for improving support to education programs in developing countries have been few and far between. But throughout that period, Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, has had a consistent message: Education is one of the best development investments possible.

    In 2002, Mr. Brown was one of those pushing for creation of the Fast Track Initiative (recently renamed the Global Partnership for Education). His government provided generous support to its trust funds and, more importantly, intellectual support to the design of an approach that exemplified aid effectiveness, well before aid effectiveness was an international buzzword.

    Mr. Brown’s latest report on education, published this week, continues this impressive record of advocacy. The report calls for a massive increase in international funding to basic education. It points out the disparities between recent trends in external funding for education, and more positive trends in health. It also gives considerable attention to the Global Partnership for Education (Global Partnership)—applauding its overall model and recognizing its record of achievement, in particular in terms of bringing more children into schools and in reducing gender gaps.

    The report presents a range of ideas that thoughtful development specialists would certainly agree with, and for which the Global Partnership’s Board of Directors has already signaled its support—the need for more attention to conflict-affected states, to the most marginalized children, and to the quality of learning. These are all areas that the Global Partnership takes very seriously, and in which it has moved quickly over the past twelve months.

    In November 2011 in Copenhagen, just two months ago, the Global Partnership hosted an extremely successful launch to our 2011-2014 replenishment. 60 governments, CSOs, International Organisations, the teaching profession, private foundations and private companies made concrete pledges, both financial and policy. This was unprecedented. Developing country partners committed over $5bn in additional funding to basic education over the coming three years; donor partners committed an initial $1.5bn with strong indications that the Global Partnership will achieve it”s target of $2.5bn to the Global Partnership Fund; CSOs, the private sector and foundations committed over $1bn. Six major donors committed to increasing their bilateral support to basic education. The pledges strongly supported achieving tangible outcomes in terms of the quality of education as well as improving access to education. By any standards the Copenhagen replenishment was a significant success.

    In terms of learning quality, the Global Partnership pledged two months ago to reduce by half the number of illiterate children in 20 partner countries over the coming five years. Next month, a consortium of Global Partnership partners, including DFID and USAID, will help many countries from sub-Saharan Africa make an initial down payment on this promise by developing action plans to transform the way reading is taught, with clear results targets. This work will focus on the children who have been the most marginalized in the past, including girls. In terms of conflict-affected states, the Global Partnership has made rapid progress. Four additional conflict-affected countries were approved for funding just last year, including Afghanistan whose Minister of Education is now a member of our Board of Directors.

    The Brown report deals at some length with a range of process and governance issues, including a number of suggestions for the appropriate role of the World Bank within the Partnership. This is a question that will be reviewed by the Global Partnership’s Board at its next annual meeting. Mr. Brown’s inputs will be very helpful to this review. The Brown report also claims that funding availability from the Global Partnership to partner countries has often been delayed. We disagree and contend that funds continue to be available to partner countries in a timely manner. The average time elapsed between approval and funding availability is less than six months, one of the best records among all global programs.

    The Global Partnership agrees with Mr. Brown that the international community can and should still do much more to fund education, for the compelling reasons he cites. The answer to turning this situation around does, as he suggests, mean much more attention to a wider range of potential partners, including the private sector. The Global Partnership is working assiduously to put more emphasis on a greatly strengthened capacity within the Partnership. It is by demonstrating real learning outcomes for all children, and by an uncompromising focus on value for money, that the funding increases Mr. Brown so rightly calls for can best be achieved.

  4. Many thanks for these thought-provoking comments.

    I agree with Bob Prouty that Gordon Brown’s report has been important in promoting the crucial message that education is a key investment. During a period when interest in Education for All appears to be waning, his ability to galvanise attention while ‘movers and shakers’ have been meeting in Davos is impressive. And I’m pleased that Gordon Brown has found it helpful to draw on evidence presented in previous Global Monitoring Reports to promote a renewed drive towards the 2015 goals.

    The idea of the global fund is clearly Gordon Brown’s own. Whether we agree with establishing a new fund or not, the responsibility for identifying the US$16 billion needed to reach 67 million children out-of-school is all of ours. If anything, the challenges have become even greater in recent times – as Helen Abadzi rightly points out.

    The GMR will continue to weigh up the evidence to identify how additional resources can be raised, and how these can be most effectively channeled, to move quickly and urgently towards achieving the 2015 Education for All goals. In our recent policy briefs prepared at the time of the Global Partnership’s replenishment meeting and the Busan High Level Meeting on Aid Effectiveness, we identified that aid to education remains vastly insufficient and fragile. We also raised concerns that education may not be benefiting to the same degree as other sectors from new sources of development financing coming from emerging donors, such as Brazil, China and India, or from the private sector.

    A continued push to give visibility to the shortcomings in education financing is essential to accelerate progress towards the goals to which we are all committed.

  5. Certainly education for all is a priority we can all get behind. However, we all know there is a large discrepancy between the resources that are mobilized or acquired by donors, governments and international organizations for global development, and what percentage of the money actually reaches communities and families.

    Important questions remain – Will a new approach include accountability to beneficiaries and local implementing partners? How can funding and reporting mechanisms be altered to shave the layers of bureaucracy that each take their share of the funding before it reaches the community level?

    I advocate for more a significant proportion of aid funds to not remain targeted at large international initiatives and organizations, but at local organizations. Certainly larger programs, policy efforts, and economic reforms are needed to bring about structural change at national and international levels for children. However without building a base of committed stakeholders at all levels in favor of education—in particular the local level—change runs the risk of being inconsequential in the everyday lives of boys and girls.

    As community-based and -focused institutions, grassroots organizations are part of the social fabric of the community in which girls and boys live and grow. This uniquely positions them to serve and be led by vulnerable, unreached, and marginalized children. Grassroots organizations are often the “first responders” when kids are out of school, addressing their immediate and long-term needs. When election-related violence breaks out, an earthquake hits, or a case of abuse is discovered, grassroots organizations snap into action to make sure kids are safe and cared for, demonstrating a genuine approach to holistic programming, as well as a resourcefulness and commitment to children that stems from their “staying power” at the local level.

    This intimate position within girls’ and boys’ lives and in the community enables grassroots organizations to (1) have the legitimacy and trust to reach marginalized and isolated children with supportive and appropriate care, (2) design education programs that are deemed most necessary and sensible in their locality, and (3) use their expertise to influence local support systems and institutions (e.g. schools, families, local government etc.) to more adequately fulfill children’s rights.

    I’ve had the privilege of working with over 300 grassroots organizations in my career. Most were linked to local churches, schools, or clinics or were independent groups that assist children by extending support and services into areas that are not reached by sufficiently government or international agencies. A mapping exercise sponsored by UNICEF identified over 1,800 community-based organizations focused on orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi alone (NOVOC, 2005). has already registered over 113,000 local organizations and movements working on a wide variety of issues in 243 countries. They conservatively estimate that they may well be over 1,000,000 such local groups operating across the globe.

    We can always talk about more money, but unfortunately, until the aid delivery system changes to meet their needs, local groups will be competing for often scarce and ineffective resources. Thus well-resourced mechanisms that reach more under-recognized and under-funded grassroots organizations with unrestricted small grants are needed.

    Whatever the latest development fad or pronouncement, aid’s biggest challenge is its autonomy-killing funding and reporting mechanisms, with each layer of bureaucracy taking their share of the money before it ever reaches local leaders and activists. They are there, directly working on the ground with children and families to get them quality schooling, whether outside support is available or not.

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