Promoting access to quality, safe, and relevant education for all persons affected by crisis

Education Cannot Wait: a fund for education in emergencies

One in four of the world’s school-aged children – 462 million – now live in countries affected by crisis. 

Of these, 75 million children aged 3-18 years, living in 35 crisis-affected countries, are in desperate need of educational support.

Education for these children has long been neglected, but there is a growing recognition of its central importance.

Built on extensive consultation and dialogue among a range of stakeholders, Education Cannot Wait - a fund for education in emergencies is an education crisis fund designed to transform the global education sector, including both humanitarian and development responses. Launched at the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016, the fund aims to deliver a more collaborative, agile, and rapid response to education in emergencies in order to fulfill the right to education for children and young people affected by crises. It is about both restoring hope to millions of children and demonstrating that the governments who signed the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal pledge intend to keep their promise.

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Core Functions and Operationalization of the Fund

Five core functions have been identified for the Fund, each of which directly address obstacles which were identified as playing a significant role in preventing or limiting education responses in humanitarian crises:

  1. Inspire political commitment​ so that education is viewed by both governments and funders as a top priority during crises
  2. Plan and respond collaboratively​, with a particular emphasis on enabling humanitarian and development actors to work together on shared objectives
  3. Generate and disburse additional funding​ to close the $8.5 billion funding gap needed to reach 75 million out­of­school children and youth
  4. Strengthen capacity to respond to crises​, nationally and globally, including the ability to coordinate emergency support
  5. Improve accountability by developing and sharing knowledge,​ including collection of more robust data in order to make better­informed investment decisions, and knowledge of what works


The Fund will be operationalized through two mechanisms:

The Acceleration Facility (5 percent) will provide “catalytic support grants” to global and regional players so they can improve the effectiveness, the cost-effectiveness and scale of existing approaches to education in emergencies.

The Breakthrough Fund (95 per cent) will support country-level initiatives undertaken by governments and implementing partners and include:

  • A rapid-response mechanism focused on returning children and youth to education. The mechanism will fund safe learning spaces, teaching and learning materials, innovative delivery models and psychosocial support. It will also invest in improving planning for short- and medium-term needs.
  • A multi-year window that supports long-term plans and the provision of learning opportunities and consolidates existing humanitarian and education sector plans, facilitating a coherent, coordinated approach.
  • A pop-up facility that enables non-traditional donors such as the private sector and philanthropists to quickly and easily channel financial support to a specific country, region or part of a country’s national plan, without cumbersome procedures that often hinder timely support for education in emergencies.

The Education Cannot Wait Fund will scale up resource mobilization over the first five years, commencing with an aim to raise approximately $150 million in the first year and with an ambition to bring funding to a level of $1.5 billion in the fifth year. This involves an overall 5-year fundraising ambition of $3.85 billion.

The Fund’s resource mobilisation efforts will aim to bring in new, untapped resources, rather than reallocating existing funds. However, the Education Cannot Wait Fund is not intended to close the overall funding gap in education in emergencies and protracted crises. It has been designed to act as a catalyst and its approaches are designed to incentivise interest, action and additional funding, from across the humanitarian and development continuum.

The Fund will be established and hosted at UNICEF initially. A decision regarding the permanent home of the Fund and its relationships with existing mechanisms will be made after the first year of the Fund’s operation. This will be informed by a formal review of hosting opportunities which will include a call for expression of interest from potential hosts.


Summary of commitments

At the launch event in May 2016, donor representatives from the United Kingdom, the United States, Norway, the European Union and the Netherlands stepped up and pledged $87.5 million* or just over half of the $150 million needed to fully fund year one.

Non-state pledges for the first year included a $2.5 million contribution from Dubai Cares to support initial set-up of the Education Cannot Wait secretariat bringing the total to more than $90 million. The Global Business Coalition for Education also committed to ‘mobilize $100 million in financial and relevant in-kind contributions.’

*Donor commitments made at the May 23, 2016 launch event:

  • US = $20 million
  • UK = £30 million over two years
  • EU = €5 million
  • Norway = $10 million
  • Netherlands = €7 million
  • Dubai Cares = $2.5 million

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Page sources: ODI and UNICEF
Header image: Stacy Hughes, INEE