Pakistan lauds global funding plan for schools in poor nations

UNITED NATIONS: With the ‘Transforming Education Summit’ underway at the UN General Assembly, leaders of Pakistan and several other countries Saturday backed the establishment of the first-ever international funding mechanism for schools to widen access to education in some of the world’s poorest countries.

The International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) will directly address the devastating global education crisis and learning inequalities that have been exacerbated by the deadly combination of COVID-19, climate change, and conflicts, according to a UN press release.

The facility targets the urgent needs of lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) which are home to more than half of the world’s children and youth and where 3 out of 4 young people are leaving school without the basic skills to thrive.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres convened the historic Summit to tackle this chronic and deepening education crisis – a fundamental issue which could derail progress on the entire sustainable development agenda and called on the international community to operationalize the International Finance Facility for Education to help avoid a “generational catastrophe.” The innovation behind IFFEd has the power to transform education finance.

Donor governments and multilateral development banks have come together to launch IFFEd and provide an initial $2 billion in additional affordable funding for education programs to be disbursed starting in 2023, the press release said. IFFEd could unlock an extra $10 billion of additional financing for education and skills by 2030.

The ground-breaking new facility uses a mix of sovereign guarantees and donor grants, to provide affordable education financing. In the current resource-constrained environment, IFFEd is a game-changer for both donors and LMICs, as it multiplies donor dollars seven times as compared to traditional aid, according to the press release.

On the opening day of the Summit, more than 100 leading economists and world leaders signed an open letter calling for the launch of IFFEd to transform the lives of millions of children and young people around the world.

The Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK have been at the forefront of the design of this innovation since the start. The Facility is in the final stages of registration in Switzerland. IFFEd is a direct response to education budget cuts around the world and the need to leverage scarce resources in the face of compounding crises. From 2019-2020, 43 donors reduced their bilateral aid to education, and 40% of low- and lower-middle-income countries reduced their education budgets.

Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education joined the UN Secretary-General to announce its’ establishment and said: “To truly transform education, we need a fundamental shift. Business as usual will not suffice. This is why the International Finance Facility for Education is such an exciting development for our future generations. IFFEd has the potential to unlock $10 billion in new resources to support half of the world’s most vulnerable children whose pleas to “Let Me Learn” must be heard.

Expressing strong support for IFFEd’s establishment, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the recent floods had destroyed over 23,700 schools in Pakistan and affected other 22,000 schools due to closures, damages or sheltering families afflicted by the flood damages.

“The impact on the lives and minds of millions of our children and youth will be felt for years to come, the Pakistani leader said. “As we work to rebuild from this catastrophe, the new stream of affordable education financing from IFFEd will be crucial to help meet our financing needs to provide an inclusive and quality education for our most vulnerable children and youth.”

Masatsugu Asakawa, President of Asian Development Bank, said, “The unprecedented job and learning losses caused by the pandemic require a global coalition and a commitment at scale to mobilize additional financing that will significantly expand support for those in need. ADB is pleased to be a leading partner in taking forward the International Finance Facility for Education initiative in Asia and the Pacific.”

Matilda Ernkrans, Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation, said,“Once approved, Sweden’s guarantee to IFFEd will be our largest guarantee ever within international development cooperation. It will enable innovative finance to increase domestic resource mobilization in exchange for new international funding for education to serve the most marginalized students. Education for all children and youth, leaving no one behind, is a key priority for Swedish development cooperation.”

Liesje Schreinemacher, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, the Netherlands welcomed the financial innovation at the heart of IFFEd, which enables donor dollars to reach seven times more children and young people to benefit from education. “By partnering with private and philanthropic funders, IFFEd has strong potential to deliver on critical priorities such as vocational education to prepare young people for work in lower-middle-income countries.” .”

Dr Rajiv Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation, said, “Innovations like the International Financing Facility for Education can help ensure we are getting maximum leverage out of each dollar of education funding.

“By expanding such funding, this facility will scale the solutions humanity needs to make opportunity universal and sustainable.”

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