DAKAR, Senegal — One week after public education proponents met in Senegal at the Global Partnership for Education Financing conference, organizers have developed immediate follow-up actions for the $2.3 billion in commitments garnered during the high-level meetings.
Many donor countries demonstrated their dedication to increasing access to quality education with their individual pledges to the partnership fund, including the United Arab Emirates — the partnership’s first Arab and Middle Eastern donor — who pledged $100 million. Senegal became the first low-income country to pledge as a donor, with a $2 million commitment.
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In the days following the meetings, the GPE Secretariat met to discuss pre-allocation specifications and create a strategic plan that transparently tracks and monitors agreements made by donor countries, private foundations, and developing countries who pushed their national expenditures to reach or surpass international guidelines of 20 percent of a national budget. The finance and risk committee made indicative allocations for $1 billion thus far, a designated amount for a pool of 26 countries not currently enrolled in a GPE grant program — countries including Ethiopia, Pakistan, Ghana, and Yemen. Future allocations for expiring grant programs will be made in May.
“The GPE Secretariat will be contacting all countries that made donor pledges and asking for formal written agreements of that [pledge] and then releasing the money as soon as they can,” David Archer, member of the GPE finance and risk committee told Devex. He said the 26 eligible countries will receive letters notifying them of their eligibility amount, up to $100 million for large countries like Nigeria and Uganda.
While the GPE didn’t achieve its intended target of raising $3.1 billion, the campaign for countries to recommit to education financing has reignited a conversation around the importance of access to quality education as a driver of effective development. Archer said he is optimistic that if the partnership effectively tracks pledges using tactics to increase the transparency and accountability of national government spending, it could drastically improve education outcomes.
“A lot of money is raised at the global level for other sectors like health, but the strength of the education community is that the money is for education system reform based on education sector plans that have been negotiated by ministries of education, together with citizens [and] in-country donors, and so you have a much more credible system,” Archer told Devex.
Recent reforms to grant eligibility state that the GPE will only support countries that maintain or increase their own spending on education annually.
Board members for the Global Campaign for Education, a coalition of civil society organizations, told Devex that national education coalitions will track commitments made by developing countries to increase national spending on education. This follow-up step is critical, Archer said, to stop pledges going unfulfilled.
In an official statement, the group wrote: “We pledge as civil society to pursuing increases among developing and donor countries share of budgets for education, the size of budgets overall, the sensitivity of allocations towards equity, and the scrutiny of spending to ensure education budgets are fully and effectively utilized in practice. We recognize we have a particular role to play in tracking pledges and providing independent oversight of education budgets.”
The coalition also called on the GPE to make broad-based civil society engagement and respect for human rights “absolute requirements” in its funding model.
“In relation to the developing country pledges that were made last time the GPE wasn't prepared for the idea that developing countries would make their own pledges and so many pledges were made without a clear baseline,” Archer explained. This year there was an effort to verify the credibility of existing education spending by creating a systemic format for pledge announcements, he added.
In total, 53 developed countries pledged $110 billion in education financing last week.
Along with impressive local commitments, the presence of dozen of political leaders and heads of states and extensive knowledge sharing indicate overall success. “I believe this is a breakthrough moment for education,” Archer told Devex.
Read more Devex coverage on the Global Partnership for Education.