7 buzz topics at the GPE replenishment conference

A teacher helps two girls in Honduras. The Global Partnership for Education aims to secure $3.5 billion in funds for the next four years. Photo by: Paul Martinez / GPE / CC BY-NC-ND

It’s been a busy 2014 so far at the Global Partnership for Education, as the organization continues to adjust to new leadership and hash out the details of a revamped funding model that is expected to encourage more support from donors.

And it’s not ending there. At this week’s second replenishment conference in Brussels, the target is for the GPE to secure $3.5 billion for the next four years, an ambitious target but a must as the fund struggles to meet an existing funding gap of over $500 million, and expects to increasingly receive more requests from partner countries, some of whom experience conflicts and economic downturns that can have “serious consequences” for school enrolment and completion, said Emily Laurie, Plan International global advocacy manager of the “Because I Am A Girl” campaign.

The partnership has already received some initial pledges that indicate that "we'll reach several billion in additional education funding" by today's end, a GPE spokesperson told Devex, adding that the secretariat is hoping this trend will continue until 2018, the last year of the current replenishment period.

Money matters aside, the two-day conference that kicks off on Wednesday in Brussels is expected to be full of discussions over a wide range of topics, and here are our top seven picks:

1. New funding model.

The GPE recently opted to overhaul its old funding model to better align it with donor demands for results, and push for partner governments to increase its domestic resources for education by encouraging them to adhere to several performance benchmarks. For instance, now for a partner country to receive 70 percent in initial funds, it needs to have a credible education plan, commit to improve data collection on education, and commit to progressively increasing domestic funding to education toward the goal of at least 20 percent. The remaining 30 percent will only be disbursed if the partner country was able to show progress in equity in education access — especially for girls and people with disabilities — and efficiency in financing and learning outcomes. Likewise, funding allocations under the new model will be needs-based; countries with large numbers of children not receiving primary education and those in fragile environments are in a better position to secure funding from the GPE, too. The question now is how well will this new funding mechanism be received by stakeholders, and how it will play out to meet the partnership’s objectives.

According to a GPE factsheet, "The performance standards will vary depending on the development situation in each country: some countries will be able to measure progress in the number of children attending school and learning, while others need intermediary milestones such as adopting stronger policies and strategies or implementing key actions to move towards improved results. There will be no one size fits all approach."

2. Education budget in humanitarian aid.

The GPE is not only asking for donors to pledge funds to its core budget, but also to increase their support for education in humanitarian responses to at least 4 percent. Education doesn’t normally get much attention in humanitarian appeals and funding requests, especially when compared to food and health, as Devex reported earlier this week. Only 34 percent of appeals for education last year was met, essentially leaving 23 million vulnerable children in conflict zones out of school.

3. Education in the post-2015 agenda.

Aid groups welcome the inclusion of education in the set of proposals put forward by the U.N. High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals in a world where 57 million children still have no access to primary school education. However, there are a lot of questions among education advocates as to what exactly the post-2015 educational targets will be, and how will the aid community ensure education will be accessible to all, including children with disabilities. There's also the question on future financing for education: Laurie pointed out to Devex how $3.2 billion of aid on education were spent on scholarships for foreign students in 2011, instead of improving education access and quality in developing countries. Some donors also provide part of their education aid as loans, which countries would need to pay back with interest and therefore deprive them of future resources, she added. In addition, while teacher training was identified as a proposed target in the OWG's report, it's still unclear how much of the education ODA would be spent on this.

4. Making education work in fragile contexts.

Over 23 million children with no access to education live in fragile and conflict-affected countries, where school facilities are often destroyed or used by armed groups, and systems are broken. A session at the GPE will explore ways on how to better support education in such contexts. The session will seek suggestions from a panel, which includes the education ministers of the Central African Republic, Somalia and Pakistan.

5. Domestic resource mobilization.

A huge part of the GPE's new funding model is meant to encourage national governments to boost their own resources for education, especially at a time when traditional donors are tightening their aid budgets. Aid to education has fallen dramatically in recent years, and NGOs are worried that education is increasingly being de-prioritized by donors. While there has been progress on this front — public spending on education in GPE-supported countries increased from 15.5 percent in 2000 to 18.2 percent in 2011 — Laurie said that if donors are to up their investments in education, this must be matched “in ambition” as well by developing country partners. A session on the topic is set to explore innovative ways of how governments can boost their own budgets without relying so much on overseas aid.

6. Gender equality.

About 31 million girls worldwide are out of primary school, and 65 million have yet to complete their secondary education. But it's not just about access. Last week, Plan International launched a campaign in Ethiopia to call on the African Union and governments to increase their education budgets and ensure safer and quality education for all. In many countries, girls still experience gender-based violence in schools or on the way to school. Laurie said there is a "significant role for donors to play here, both in terms of offering technical as well as financial support."

7. Private sector engagement.

The role of business in every development sector is increasingly becoming vital, including in education — but a recent report noted that the private sector in DAC member countries is only spending $135 million on basic education, and no business entity has pledged any financial contributions to the GPE to date. The secretariat however has spurred a number of initiatives in recent years to engage the private sector in its work, and with the new funding model, it hopes the private sector will be more encouraged to channel their support through the GPE. The spokesperson said: "GPE's new funding model is focused on leveraging change as investment is increasingly focused on performance, and this offers a strong business case."

What issues are you looking forward to being discussed at the event? Do you think GPE’s new funding model would encourage the private sector to commit financial contributions to the partnership? Please let us know by sending an email to news@devex.com or leaving a comment below.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.