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Last in Line, Last in School

How donors are failing children in conflict-affected fragile states

by Save the Children Alliance, April 12, 2007

Conflict-Affected Fragile States (CAFS) -- Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Republic of the Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Timor Leste, Uganda, Zimbabwe

Executive summary

Half of the world’s out-of-school population – 39 million children – live in conflict-affected fragile states (CAFS), even though these countries make up just 13 per cent of the world’s population. The numbers of out-of-school children are disproportionately high for a number of reasons. Almost all CAFS are low-income countries, some lack the political will to provide education, and conflict almost inevitably leaves national institutions – including education authorities – in disarray. However, one of the major factors is that these countries are underfunded by donors. Even compared with children in other low-income countries (LICs), children in CAFS are losing out on the chance to go to school.

Education is a basic human right, even during conflict. It is also what children and their families want. In recent years the international community has recognised that the right to education is achievable and has mobilised to make it a reality. But existing measures to support universal primary education (UPE) and achieve the education Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)are not reaching children living in CAFS. These children are being denied the transformative effects that education can bring.

Education can increase children’s resistance to forced recruitment and exploitation, such as forced prostitution. Education also teaches key life skills, such as landmine awareness, protection from HIV and AIDS and other diseases. The benefits of an education can be passed on to future generations – it is proven to lower infant mortality. It contributes to economic growth, peace and stability, and promotes critical thinking in citizens and their ability to hold local and national systems to account, paving the way for good governance and institution-building.

Despite this, education is not a priority in either humanitarian or development aid, particularly for children in CAFS. Donors are not filling the US$9 billion external financing requirement to enable all children to go to primary school by 2015 and mechanisms such as the Education for All–Fast Track Initiative (EFA–FTI) are failing to mobilise sufficient additional resources. Aid for education has tended to be targeted at middle-income countries (MICs) or other LICs, rather than CAFS, with the result that CAFS receive less than a fifth of total education aid. At country level, donors do not prioritise education, with only 4 per cent of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to CAFS being committed to education. Education is also one of the least funded sectors in humanitarian aid, which can be a major source of funding for CAFS. In 2006, education received only 1.1 per cent of humanitarian assistance globally, despite representing at least 4.2 per cent of humanitarian needs.

The global funding situation of education for children living in CAFS is the sum of the policies and practices of bilateral and multilateral donors. It is therefore individual donors that need to consider these issues in relation to their own policies and practices and identify where they need to change. All the bilateral donors need to ensure they are meeting their fair share of the US$9bn financing requirement. Donors also need to ensure their funding is equitable and in line with needs – making sure CAFS are not the last in line for aid and that education is prioritised in these countries. Multilateral organisations also need to prioritise education as part of their overall aid programmes. Along with UNICEF, the World Bank and the European Commission (EC) have a key role to play in ensuring that children in CAFS are able to go to school.

There are currently mechanisms in place for disbursing aid to CAFS, which donors can and have adapted to use in challenging contexts. Projects, budget support, multi-donor trust funds and social funds can all be used to channel resources. Partnerships with governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and UN agencies can be made to support the provision of services while building capacity for the longer term. Combining initial assessments, appropriate context-driven planning and a variety of funding mechanisms can build donor and government confidence that funds will be used appropriately and in line with needs. Monitoring mechanisms can also be put in place to manage risk, and address donor concerns about the misuse of funds, or the manipulation of education.

Children in CAFS, like all children, have the right to an education. Yet one in three children in these countries is missing out. Despite accounting for half of the world’s out-of-school children, CAFS receive only a fifth of global education aid. When aid is provided to CAFS, education is not prioritised, neither in development nor humanitarian contexts.

Children in CAFS should no longer be the last in line for school. Save the Children is calling on bilateral and multilateral donors to individually review their policies and practices to ensure that they are providing sufficient and equitable financing for education in development and humanitarian contexts. We are calling on them to urgently:

- increase overall education funding to meet the US$9bn annual financing requirement for universal primary education

- increase allocations of education aid to CAFS in line with their needs

- make education a greater priority in CAFS

- include education as part of the humanitarian policy and response.

Full report