International efforts to provide universal basic education in the poorest countries are now failing because of poor governance of the world’s education financing body and lack of investment by donors.
A new report published by international agency Oxfam today, “Rescuing Education For All” said the future of 72 million children currently out of school depended on a fundamental shift in the way education is funded globally. Oxfam called on G8 and G20 leaders to launch a Global Fund for Education at their annual summit in Canada in June.
This comes on the heels of a new UNESCO report that reveals a vast $16 billion annual education financing shortfall. Without this money, the goal of education for all children by 2015, agreed to by world leaders in 2000, will not be met.
Oxfam’s report highlights an alarming decline in aid commitments to the Education for All - Fast-Track Initiative (FTI), set up by world leaders in 2002 to help low-income countries achieve universal basic education.
“The scandal of the missing billions revealed by UNESCO today shows how fundamentally the FTI and other education donors have failed,” said Oxfam report author Katie Malouf. “Aid commitments for education are being conveniently forgotten in the economic downturn.”
In addition to being inadequately financed, the FTI suffers from lack of autonomy from the World Bank, weak governance and stakeholder participation, and bureaucratic hold ups, Oxfam’s report said. The Netherlands, United Kingdom, the European Commission and Spain are major contributors to the FTI. However, other G8 countries have neglected the initiative.
Malouf said: “Unnecessary Word Bank restrictions and red tape have resulted in unacceptable delays in getting money out of the door. For example a $20 million grant for Yemen, agreed to in 2006, has still not been released.”
“The economic crisis now is now threatening to make a bad situation worse for children in poor countries. Yet funds languish in a bank account in Washington, when they are urgently needed to get children into school.”
Oxfam’s report recommends the transformation of the FTI into a Global Fund for Education, independent of the World Bank and able to operate flexibly and in partnership with poor countries needing to build classrooms and hire teachers. “Without urgent reform of the FTI, all the money in the world is not going to make a difference,” Malouf said.
“Developing country governments have demonstrated their commitment to education, and they’re appealing for urgent support. An ambitious and effective Global Fund for Education must be the answer to that call.”
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Notes to editors
The UNESCO figures quoted here are from the 2010 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, which is published on 19 January 2010.