The Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) bi-annual meetings recently took place in Amman, Jordan. Two points stood out from the event: there is considerable excitement about the potential offered by the impending Crisis Platform for Education in Emergencies, now known as the Education Cannot Wait Fund. However, although the event was attended by the world’s best professionals in education in emergencies, they had very little understanding of how it will work, and how they can engage with it.
The Fund, or what it represents, is something that has been campaigned for vivaciously by many education advocators for some time. Any improvement to the tiny fraction of aid in emergencies going to education would be welcome. The persistently low amounts of humanitarian aid, and the frustrating lack of coordination between humanitarian and development assistance led to the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Education Gordon Brown leading the call for a new fund to be launched.
The time is soon upon us. The Fund will be launched at 3.45pm on the 23rd of May at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. It will no doubt be hailed as one of the major outcomes of the Summit, an initiative pushed hard by the UN Secretary General. This blog lays out a few ways the Fund can ensure it is viewed as a success and welcomed by the education community as it develops.
Who will host the platform?
The frustration seems to centre around a few, central points. Who will host the fund in the long term, is one key question, because where the fund lands will have big implications for how inclusive it may be, and what strategic direction it will end up taking. Initially, the fund is to be hosted at UNICEF. Whether that is to last for a year or more, and who decided that, and will decide on where it will sit afterwards is not clear, however. Some participants at the INEE meetings viewed GPE’s hosting of the platform preferable, since there would be greater chance for civil society participation, and because they have mechanisms already set up.
What will the fund do?
We currently have little information about exactly how much donors give to education in crises. Transparent reporting mechanisms related to the platform could help expose this, and allow for those affected by it the chance to voice their opinions and offer advice.
However, the fifth strategy of the fund, to ‘increase awareness of need and evidence’ for education in emergencies (EiE) seems separate from the initial rationale for having a fund in the first place, given that many are already filling that space. Some have mused that this strategy is there because of where the Fund is to be hosted, rather than because it fits within its initial purpose.
Where will the Education Cannot Wait funds come from?
For us to ensure that education is not still waiting in a few years time, the Fund must help clarify where finances generated are additional, rather than re-hashed, funds for EiE. Although the ODI brief specifies that the Fund will be designed “to protect against substitution”, genuine worries were voiced about the impact that a high-profile launch of the platform might have on GPE’s funding, which is still largely unmet since its last replenishment meeting. How many of the countries being targeted in the ODI plans, for instance, are GPE countries? Among some, this is a reason to have the Fund attached more concretely to GPE, rather than seen as separate.
Where will the funds go?
The funds will be channeled through existing mechanisms, as far as is possible, with a multi-year support window allowing for funds to flow for up to five years.
If the Fund is to be regarded as a success, however it must reverse its current tendency to focus mainly on children, rather than on a broader spectrum including youth, TVET, and higher education. This is one of the loudest concerns voiced, a concern that become greater as consistent remarks along these lines are not reflected in briefing notes as they are updated and released. The recent briefing notes out by UNICEF and ODI confirm this point, with a strong emphasis on children in its introduction and main text, and visibly fewer references to youth. The main tangible target mentioned, for instance, is to “increase access to education in emergencies by 18% of crisis-affected children by 2020 and to 100% of crisis-affected children by 2030’.
In addition, the governance of the Fund and how its finances are spent must ensure that the focus on rapid onset emergencies outlined in the recent briefing is fairly balanced with the chronic needs of the most poorly funded protracted crises often pushed to the side. A recent GEM Report policy paper showed that at present some crises are prioritised over others especially if they have higher media visibility: Just 4% of the 342 appeals between 2000-2014 received over half of available humanitarian aid for education. The Fund must be sure to help balance this out.
How can we engage with it?
Given some of the above mentioned concerns, the Fund should also make it more obvious how people can engage with its design and governance. With the technical strategy group for the platform disbanded, ways of influencing seem to have been stopped.
Clarity for the Fund should come from the political group (Gordon Brown, Julia Gillard, Anthony Lake etc…) but is not forthcoming. Save the Children has set up an email distribution list where they share what information they have about the Fund, which anyone can join. This is a welcome initiative, but a shame it is not coming from the source.
The concerns noted above are not intended to suck the enthusiasm away from the genuine exciting potential offered by the new fund. Almost anything can be better than where we are now. There does seem to be some real hope for greater inclusivity found in the recent news that NGOs from international and local civil society organisations will sit on the Fund’s interim Executive Committee, and that INEE is being considered to run ‘constituency forums’ around it. All those involved in these groups must work to ensure its future governance is transparent, consultative and inclusive. This will help make sure the Fund can be warmly received, and supported to deliver real change and fast.