Co-organized by Switzerland and "Education Cannot Wait", the UN's global fund for education in emergencies, the first international conference to raise funds for countries affected by emergencies will be held this weekend in Geneva. In close collaboration with the governments of Colombia, Niger, Germany, Norway and South Sudan, the event aims to mobilize the resources needed to provide quality education to 20 million children and adolescents facing some of the world's most devastating humanitarian crises. On the eve of the event, Swiss development cooperation is organizing the International Cooperation Forum, also dedicated to education. At present, over 200 million children have no access to education due to conflict, climate change and other crises.
On February 16 and 17 in Geneva, Switzerland, leaders from around the world will gather for the Education Cannot Wait (ECW) High-Level Funding Conference as part of their commitment to ensuring quality education for all children, everywhere.
High-quality basic and further training are crucial to sustainable development. Around the world, education systems are facing major challenges. Even before the pandemic, six out of ten children did not have a basic level of literacy and numeracy, and COVID-19 exacerbated the situation. Many schools have closed; children have been unable to continue learning, and many young people have had to interrupt their education.
Education Cannot Wait (ECW), created in 2016, to highlight the fact that in the event of conflict, natural disaster, climate change or any other exceptional situation, education cannot wait for better times. Worldwide, 222 million children and adolescents affected by protracted crises urgently need education support. According to ECW, over 78 million of them are not in school at all.
Yasmine Sherif, Fund Director, says the time has come "to stand up for the world's most vulnerable children and young people and keep our promise by ensuring quality education for all by 2030, as set out in the Sustainable Development Goals."
The international conference in Geneva aims to raise funds from donors, foundations and high-net-worth individuals to implement ECW's four-year strategic plan, which will mobilize $1.5 billion in additional resources to provide quality education to 20 million children and adolescents facing some of the world's most devastating humanitarian crises. It will be broadcast live and accessible to the public remotely.
On February 16, leaders will announce substantial new financial contributions to ECW. There will also be a focus on Afghanistan, providing an opportunity to make a strong case for a country where almost 10 million girls and boys depend on humanitarian aid to survive. First to speak will be Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Chairman of the ECW High-Level Steering Group; Ignazio Cassis, Federal Councillor of the Swiss Confederation, in charge of Foreign Affairs; Svenja Schulze, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany; Ibrahim Natatou, Minister of National Education, Niger; Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, Minister of International Development, Norway; Awut Deng Acuil, Minister of General Education and Instruction, South Sudan; and Alejandro Gaviria, Minister of National Education, Colombia.
On February 17, a series of round tables will focus on sharing ideas and experiences aimed at transforming the delivery of education in emergencies around the world.
The United Nations "Education Cannot Wait" fund has already provided global educational assistance to nearly 7 million children and adolescents. It finances, for example, the upgrading of learning spaces, the purchase of quality school supplies, teacher training and financial support, the provision of mental health and school feeding services, and holistic child-centered solutions. To date, ECW has mobilized over $1.1 billion from donor countries, the private sector and philanthropic foundations.
Switzerland has been defending the right to education for many years. Both basic education and the development of professional skills are cornerstones of Switzerland's international cooperation. As such, the Swiss International Cooperation Forum (February 15) will be dedicated to education, Education4Future. It will bring together diverse voices and perspectives through representatives from politics, research, the younger generation, the private and financial sectors, NGOs and civil society. The hybrid format of the event, with working sessions combining practice and theory, and the interactive platform will enable all interested parties to participate actively in the discussions (see https://icforum.swiss/). As part of "Youth for Solutions", the second day (February 16) will be dedicated to young people, their ideas and approaches.