U.S. Support to the Global Partnership for Education: Past Reflections, Future Opportunities

January 14, 2014
by Tony Baker, Education for All Campaign Manager

This blog originally appeared here.

It’s 2014, and we’re still living in a world in which 1 out of every 10 children can’t go to school. In many places, those in school are provided a quality of education so low that they leave without fundamental skills in literacy and numeracy. UNESCO estimates that nearly 40 percent of the world’s children of primary school age either do not reach grade 4 or, if they do, fail to attain even minimum learning standards.

This June, the world will be presented with an opportunity to change this situation and ensure the development of quality basic education systems in a post-2015 world. On June 26, 2014, governments and development actors from across the globe will come together in Brussels for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Pledging Conference. The outcomes of the pledging conference are critical to the work of GPE over the next four years (2015-2018).

The Global Partnership for Education

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is the world’s only multilateral partnership exclusively devoted to improving the provision of quality basic education. Established in 2002, GPE is a partnership of donor governments, multilateral agencies, private sector, civil society, and 59 developing countries.

Nearly three-quarters of the world’s out-of-school children live in GPE developing country partners. These countries are also home to 85 percent of the world’s out-of-school children living in conflict or fragile conditions.

Since 2002, GPE has committed $3.8 billion to 55 countries through a model that builds government capacity to deliver education services, helping them to:

  • Reduce out-of-school children from 39 percent in 2000 to 24 percent in 2011.
  • Increase primary school completion rates from 58 percent in 2000 to 75 percent in 2011.
  • Increase access to lower-secondary school from 38 percent in 2000 to 58 percent in 2011.
  • Increase government expenditures in education from 16 percent in 2000 to 18 percent in 2011.

The United States and GPE

GPE’s work is fueled primarily by donor government contributions. A pledge monitoring exercise conducted by RESULTS Educational Fund took an in-depth look at the commitment that the United States made to GPE at its last pledging conference in November 2011. The exercise revealed findings which hold implications as to the role the United States must play in the upcoming pledging conference in June:

  • The United States must make much greater, multi-year commitments to GPE. At the November 2011 GPE Pledging Conference, the United States made its first-ever commitment to GPE — a single-year contribution of $20 million. The sum fell far behind that of many other donor countries. Nations like the U.K. and Australia made three-year commitments worth $402.6 million and $278 million, respectively, and countries with much smaller economies like Denmark and the Netherlands committed up to ten times the U.S. amount, with $201.4 million and $165.1 million, respectively.
  • Congress and the international community have been calling for greater U.S. support to GPE. Congress has sent several widely endorsed letters to the Secretary of State requesting increased U.S. support to GPE. It also continues to provide consistently high appropriations for global basic education despite Administration requests for less, indications of congressional desire for the United States to retain its role as a leader in education development. These congressional actions also signify the United States government’s capacity to provide more support to GPE without weakening U.S. bilateral education programming. International education groups like the Global Campaign for Education – U.S. have also called on Dr. Rajiv Shah, the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), to increase support to GPE.
  • Increased support to GPE will help achieve objectives that U.S. bilateral assistance cannot meet alone. GPE utilizes a systems approach to education development in which plans are developed by local stakeholders and funds are primarily channeled through government structures. This builds the environments needed by USAID to meet its own goals of increasing direct government-to-government assistance. GPE’s comparative advantage helps USAID achieve functioning national systems capable of direct partnership and service delivery.
  • Greater U.S. support to GPE is essential to bridging the gap to meet increasing demand. Demand for GPE support is on the rise. In 2013 alone, countries requested over $1 billion from GPE to support their education plans. However, if it is to approve all anticipated program implementation grants over the 2013-2014 period, an additional $585 million may be required beyond existing inflows. If these funds do not materialize, they will be sourced from new commitments in the 2015-2018 replenishment period.

The Road to the GPE Pledging Conference in June

As the world turns its attention to GPE replenishment, a number of key moments mark the way to the June 26 pledging conference:

  • January 29: UNESCO launches the 2013/4 Education for All Global Monitoring Report in Addis Ababa, providing the most up-to-date information on education development in countries worldwide, including GPE developing country partners.
  • February 25-26: The GPE Board of Directors meets in Washington, D.C., where it will determine the funds required to continue GPE’s work over the 2015-2018 period and set the replenishment campaign target.
  • May 4-10: Global Campaign for Education’s Global Action Week (GAW) presents civil society with the opportunity to highlight GPE replenishment.
  • June 26: The GPE Pledging Conference takes place in Brussels, where governments and development actors will make commitments that will impact the future of education in GPE’s 59 developing country partners.

With reflections on the past and opportunities presented by the future, the GPE Pledging Conference in June presents a critical moment for the United States to significantly increase its support to the world’s premiere multilateral partnership for basic education and to demonstrate itself as a leader in education development.

For more on the 2011 U.S. Pledge to GPE and its implications on the upcoming GPE replenishment period, see:

Towards Collaborative Support to Global Education: A Review of the U.S. Pledge to the Global Partnership for Education

Executive Summary

Discussion Paper 1 of 3: The U.S. Commitment to the GPE Fund

Discussion Paper 2 of 3: The USAID Education Strategy

Discussion Paper 3 of 3: USAID Forward

Annex: Country Profiles

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