Brussels seeks to raise €2.6 billion for basic education in developing world

Girls in school in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, Khyber, 2011. [DFID/Flickr]

A two-day fundraising conference beginning in Brussels tomorrow (25 June) aims at raising a minimum of €2.6 billion over the next three years to boost primary education in developing countries, the European Commission announced today (24 June). 

The Second Global Partnership for Education Replenishment Pledging Conference, hosted by the European Commission, will gather more than 600 leading experts in education and development, including 40 ministers of education, Alexandre Polack, spokesperson to Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, announced.

He said that the event will seek to tackle the “unacceptable” reality that 57 million children, more than half of them girls, remain out of school, and that far more – 250 million – are in school, but not getting the quality education they deserve.   

Polack stated that the EU is the biggest donor of the Global Partnership for Education, and that the hosts will appeal to the other participants to make pledges that respond to these challenges.

Asked by EURACTIV to spell out the amount to be committed by the EU Commission, Polack said that the figure will be announced by Piebalgs during the conference.

He said that thanks to EU efforts, 14 million children have gotten access to education over the last 10 years. If the conference is successful, it would be able to give access to schooling to a further 30 million of children, the spokesperson added.

Many VIPs will attend the conference, starting with Julia Gillard, a former Prime Minister of Australia, who leads the Global Partnership for Education, a platform between donors and developing countries, to ensure progress toward the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education.

Among the others are the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo Augustin Matata Ponyo, the Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, the Executive Director of UNICEF Anthony Lake, Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva, and others.

The Event will begin on the afternoon of 25 June with a high-level discussion, hosted by UNICEF and UNESCO, on post-2015 goals for education, followed by an opening plenary and reception, hosted by the Government of Denmark. On 26 June, all the participating entities will announce their financial pledges to the GPE Fund and to basic education, and there will be many parallel sessions on trends and top priorities for global education.

Speaking at the EU-hosted Global Partnership for Education’s Second Replenishment Pledging Conference on 26 June, Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs announced a new €375 million support which will contribute to providing basic education in the close to 60 countries where the Global Partnership for Education currently works.

This funding comes on top of the EU’s ongoing commitment to education – in the Agenda for Change (the EU’s policy to refocus its aid to support those sectors and countries which need it most and where it can make the most difference) the Commissioner pledged to spend at least 20% of its EU development aid on human development and social inclusion, including education.

Total EU funding for education in developing countries is expected to total some €4.5 billion between 2014 and 2020. This includes €2.8 billion for basic and vocational education, the bulk of it through bilateral cooperation, and €1.68 billion to the higher education programme. 51% of the countries supported are ‘fragile’ (countries currently affected by conflict and post-conflict countries) – an increase of almost 10% up from 2013.


Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova presented new data, showing that 58 million children aged 6 to 11 are still out of school, showing little overall improvement since 2007.

The new global out-of-school figures, produced by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), show that around 43% of those out of school –15 million girls and 10 million boys – are unlikely ever to set foot in a classroom if current trends continue.

“We cannot meet this news with further inertia. On the contrary, we must sound the alarm and mobilize the political will to ensure that every child’s right to education is respected.”

In the year 2000, the international community agreed to reduce global poverty and save millions of lives, defining eight specific Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to be achieved by 2015. They cover issues such as poverty and hunger, education, gender equality, health, environment and a global partnership for development.

The European Union actively promotes access to quality basic education for all children, youth and adults.

Over the last decade, thanks to EU funding:

  • 13.7 million new pupils have been enrolled in primary education
  • 1.2 million primary teachers have been trained
  • 37,000 schools have been built or renovated
  • 300,000 new female students have been enrolled in secondary education

But the second of the MDGs - education for all – is likely to prove "unfinished business" after the goals are reviewed for post-2015, the assistant director general for education at UNESCO, Qian Tang, has recently said.

>> Read: Education for all ‘is unfinished business’: UNESCO

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