At RESULTS UK we know that investing in education promotes prosperity, leads to more stable societies and fosters strong, resilient communities. Yesterday we were pleased to see that the UK took a leading role in launching a new initiative: Education Cannot Wait – a fund for education in emergencies.

Parliamentary Advocacy Officer for Education, Ben Sadek, explains what the fund is, why it is needed, and what more needs to happen to ensure that every young person trapped in a crisis does not lose the chance to get an education.  

Last year conflict, climate change and natural disaster disrupted the education of 75 million children and forced 37 million children out of school, denying them their right to an education.

Young students stand inside a destroyed window with the surrounding wall pock marked with bullet holes. Udaiyarkaddu School was badly destroyed during the war. Credit: Conor Ashleigh/AusAID

In the midst of humanitarian crises, whether ongoing war in Syria, the devastating impacts of El Nino across Africa, or the recent earthquake in Peru, education is too often forgotten, receiving on average less than 2 percent of humanitarian aid. But it is in fact in times of crisis that the need for education is greatest. A return to the classroom amid violence and fear can accelerate a return to normality, and that is what we hear from children caught up in conflict around the world: alongside food, shelter and life-saving medicine, what young people need most is the chance to learn.

As former Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of the Board of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), Julia Gillard, pointed out in her Guardian article yesterday, education is itself a powerful antidote to conflict. According to the World Bank, if the enrolment rate for secondary schooling is 10 percentage points higher than the average, the risk of war is reduced by about 3 percentage points. Similar links can be drawn between education and poverty, education and the rate of maternal deaths, and education and economic growth – an impressive list.

No one can disagree, then, that to achieve free, equitable, quality education for all by 2030, finding solutions for the 75 million children and youth that are being left behind through conflict and crises must be achieved – and quickly.

Former UK Prime Minister and UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, set off a conversation about the solution to the education in emergencies crisis in January last year at the World Economic Forum when he called for a new emergency education fund to tackle the problem.   

This conversation reached a milestone yesterday with the launch of ‘Education Cannot Wait”, a fund for education in emergencies. It was launched at the inaugural World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, following 18 months of discussions between governments, donors, UN bodies and civil society.

The initiative aims to reach more than 13.6 million children and youth living in crisis situations with quality education over the next five years and 75 million by 2030. It aims to do this by raising $153 million dollars in year 1, mobilising a total of £3.85 billion by 2020.

At the launch of the fund the UK Government made a pledge of $43 million, with the US, Dubai, Norway and the Netherlands also delivering financial pledges amounting to an additional $47 million. The Global Business Coalition for Education headed up by Sarah Brown also pledged $100 million of private sector finance.


While a critical enabler of action, finance is not the sole challenge in delivering education in humanitarian crises. For this reason the Fund will possess a number of other core functions that seek to tackle the root causes of inefficient education provision during crises. The full set of aims is five-fold, and it will:

  1. Inspire political commitment.
  2. Joint planning and response.
  3. Generate and disburse new funding.
  4. Strengthen capacity.
  5. Improve accountability.

The next steps for Education Cannot Wait will be to establish the governance structure of the platform, appoint a secretariat, and begin disbursing initial funds to a select few countries.

As part of our work with the Global Campaign for Education UK and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Education for All, RESULTS UK has played an important role in telling the UK Government that Education Cannot Wait. Now that the UK Government has helped to deliver the platform, we must not rest. We must continue to work together with the multilateral organisations that will administer the Fund and with our respective governments, to ensure that the political momentum ignited during the campaign is not lost and that the 37 million out-of-school children worldwide who are stuck in crises are not forgotten and are not left behind.

RESULTS is planning a follow-up blog to track the progress of the fund, the formation of the platform and any further financial pledges. Watch this space and subscribe to our RSS Feed here.