The Global Partnership for Education brought together governments and donors at its Replenishment Conference in Brussels last week. While donors fell short of the $3.5 billion target, governments stepped up to the mark. These governments will now need to work on mobilizing more domestic resources in order to make sure they meet their commitments.
The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) was established in 2002 – originally as the Education for All Fast Track Initiative (FTI) – to live up to the promise that “no countries seriously committed to Education for All will be thwarted in their achievement of this goal by lack of resources”.
For the Partnership, the best sign of a country’s serious commitment to education is a credible education plan that can be endorsed by the international community and can kick-start a compact between country and donors. The idea was that the country then increases its financing to resource its plan. And donors scale up their financing to cover any gaps. At the same time, a special fund, now called the GPE Fund, helps catalyse additional financial support. Over time, the role and reach of the GPE Fund has grown making it one of the most substantial donors to the education sector in low income countries.
Last week, the second GPE Replenishment Conference took place in Brussels, where international and national policy makers announced their specific pledges to education over the coming four years.
There is $26 billion finance gap for basic education
Pledges made by donors only covered 60% of the US$3.5 billion target, although additional commitments are expected. The long-term goal is to make aid redundant, but in the interim it is still extremely important for many of the poorest countries. Unfortunately, with pledges falling short, last week’s conference did not show any signs that the downward trend of aid to education might be reversed in coming years.
Perhaps as a result, the headline outcome of the Replenishment Conference was not related to their highly publicised target for donors, but instead the fact that “developing country governments from around the world committed to increase domestic funding for education by an unprecedented US$26 billion over the replenishment period”.
Is this a result to cheer about?
At the first GPE Replenishment Conference in Copenhagen in 2011, pledges made by governments of finance-constrained countries amounted to US$2.2 billion. In relative terms therefore the pledges made by governments in 2014 are a considerable success. It is also good that publicising these commitments brings governments under scrutiny.
But where will these resources come from?
Children in an inclusive school in Ethiopia where 25% of the national budget is spent on education. Photo: UNESCO/P. Wiggers
Many countries are already spending a large share of their budget on education. For example, Benin pledged to maintain the share of its budget dedicated to education at the extraordinarily high level of 27%. Ethiopia and Viet Nam will also maintain the share of their budgets dedicated to education at high levels over the period (25% and 20% respectively). These countries were already doing their best, in other words, and their pledges have simply confirmed that they will not deviate from that path.