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Former British PM Brown Urges Creation of Education Finance Facility

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged last week the creation of an international facility that aims to raise billions of dollars in funding for children’s education in poor and conflict-stricken countries.

Brown, who led the United Kingdom from 2007 to 2010, spoke at an event organized by the Foreign Policy Association and hosted at the United Nations, where he serves as special envoy for global education.

In support of the UN-sponsored education commission he is leading, Brown said the international community must create an innovative financing scheme to raise additional funding for the estimated 260 million children who are not in primary or secondary school today. The International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunities has proposed a facility that will raise money from donor countries, the private sector and multilateral development banks to provide schooling for 800 million young people predicted to lack necessary workforce skills by 2030.

“Half the children of the world denied their future, half our future that we have not properly invested in,” Brown said. “It is time that we think innovatively about how we can do something to end the education crisis that we face.”

The International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) Brown proposed draws inspiration from a fundraising program launched in 2006 to raise money for Gavi, an organization providing vaccinations in the world’s poorest regions. Over a 10-year period, the International Finance Facility for Immunisation has raised over $5.7 billion.

The Education Commission has set a goal to mobilize $13 billion annually by 2020.

Brown said the IFFEd will help fund the Global Partnership for Education and Education Cannot Wait, a program providing school resources to countries hosting refugees. The facility will work by incentivizing lower-middle-income countries to take out interest-free loans from The World Bank and regional development banks, which can then be turned into grants. Public and private donations would be used to secure “buy-downs of non-concessional loans” from development banks.

According to a report The Education Commission published, estimates show that $2 billion in guarantees and $2.5 billion in buy-downs would leverage around $10 billion in additional concessional financing per year.

“Don’t tell me this cannot be done, because we did it when we created the IFF facility for vaccination,” Brown said. “We’ve done it before when we had to make major changes to the way we deliver aid.”

Countries prioritizing education investment should be first in line for IFFEd loan and grant funding, Brown explained. He said The Education Commission has recommended low-and-middle-income countries increase education spending from the average today of 4 percent to 5.8 percent in return for increased international funding.

Since 2002, the share of overseas education development aid has fallen from 13 percent to 10 percent, leading to what Brown said is a failure to live up to the UN’s sustainable development goal of providing universal quality education. There is enough aid money today for $8 per child out of school, he said.

“All we can muster with all of the aid money we put together is not enough to pay for a textbook, certainly not enough to pay for a teacher, not enough to pay for the building and for the maintenance of schools,” Brown explained.

Girls in low-income countries and children in conflict zones are most likely to be deprived education, he continued, saying those displaced by war are most vulnerable to becoming child laborers, forced into marriage or sold as sex slaves.

Brown said the “civil rights struggle of our time” is to end discrimination against girls by increasing their access to education and ending sexual exploitation. He called it a “vicious cycle” that uneducated mothers in Africa have an average of five children, compared to two children for mothers who attended school, that “starts with a failure to educate girls.”

Quoting Nelson Mandela, Brown said that “promises made to children are sacred,” and a promise made by the international community to provide young people a chance at a better life is not being met.

“What destroys hope amongst children is their inability to plan and prepare for any future,” Brown said, “ because they are denied the very basic human right that is so important, and that is a right to education.”
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Author

Jordan Stutts
Jordan Stutts

Jordan Stutts is a finance reporter for business journal PEI Media covering global infrastructure transactions, private investments in energy and transportation funding. He previously worked as an associate producer for FPA’s Great Decisions television series and covered local news in Charlotte, NC. You can follow him on Twitter @jwstuttered or check out his portfolio at www.jordanstutts.com

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