World

72 million children in need of a new global education fund

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World leaders' promises to provide universal basic education in the poorest countries are being undermined by poor governance of the world's education financing body and lack of investment by donors.

A new report published today by Oxfam, " Rescuing Education For All" says the future of 72 million children currently out of school depends on a fundamental shift in the way education is funded globally.

This comes on the heels of a new UNESCO report that reveals a vast =A39.8 billion annual education financing shortfall. Without this money, the goal of education for all children by 2015, agreed to by world leaders in 2000, will not be met.

Oxfam's report highlights an alarming decline in aid commitments to the Education for All - Fast-Track Initiative (FTI), set up by world leaders in 2002 to help low-income countries achieve universal basic education.

"The scandal of the missing billions revealed by the United Nations today shows how fundamentally the World Bank and other education donors have failed," said Oxfam Policy Advisor Max Lawson. "Education should represent the hope and future of millions, but instead aid commitments for education are being dropped and children betrayed."

In addition to being inadequately financed, the FTI suffers from lack of autonomy from the World Bank, weak governance and stakeholder participation, and bureaucratic hold ups. The UK, as well as the Netherlands, the European Commission and Spain are major contributors to the FTI. However, other G8 countries have neglected the initiative.

Lawson said: "Unnecessary Word Bank restrictions and red tape have resulted in unacceptable delays in getting money out of the door. For example, less than a third of the =A3292 billion of aid that Benin was set to receive has actually been delivered."

"The economic crisis is now threatening to make a bad situation worse for children in poor countries. Yet funds languish in a bank account in Washington, when they are urgently needed to get children into school."

Oxfam's report recommends the transformation of the FTI into a Global Fund for Education, independent of the World Bank and able to operate flexibly and in partnership with poor countries needing to build classrooms and hire teachers. "Without urgent reform of the FTI, all the money in the world is not going to make a difference," Lawson said.

Oxfam is calling on G8 and G20 leaders to launch a new Global Fund for Education at their annual summit in Canada in June.

"Developing country governments have demonstrated their commitment to education, and they're appealing for urgent support. An ambitious and effective Global Fund for Education must be the answer to that call."