Gordon Brown Thanks Donors and Advocates for Prioritizing Education in Syria Response

Today, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education issued a statement thanking the donor community for its pledges of support of education for Syrian refugees in what he called “a turning point for how we finance education in conflict areas.”  

Last week, over 50 non-governmental organizations and international institutions endorsed a statement calling on the international community to support education for all Syrian children who are displaced or refugees due to the humanitarian crisis.  The organizations also, as part of the full-scale regional education response, requested financing of education for the 435,000 refugees and vulnerable children in Lebanon through a government-approved plan coordinated locally by UNICEF and UNHCR.

I am pleased that following the statement, the UK international development minister, Alan Duncan, said in the House of Commons that the UK “fully supports this excellent plan” and that in my capacity as UN Special Envoy, I should feel confident in letting other donors know the UK is there to support the Lebanese education plan.

The UK pledge to education in Lebanon follows other donors making public pledges of support. I am grateful to Administrator Rajiv Shah and USAID’s leadership in mobilizing $30 million for education in Lebanon; the Danish government for their contribution of $5.5 million; Foreign Minister Børge Brende of Norway for his recent announcement of financial support for the plan; the efforts of HH Sheikha Jawaher of the Sharjah Emirate in the UAE in her Big Heart Campaign for education for Syrian refugees via UNHCR; and the European Commission for their contribution.

The pledges to support education in Lebanon are now approaching $100 million.  The response plan requires $195.5 million in year one to deliver education for the 435,000 children who are missing out on the chance to learn.  Approaching the $100 million mark is a milestone and a turning point for how we finance education in conflict areas.

I have no doubt that if we continue to work with additional donors, we can achieve the 2014 funding goal and set a principle that it is possible to complement humanitarian support for food, water and shelter with the 100% delivery of education in conflict areas.  We can then replicate the full financing of education in other parts of the region — including Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, Northern Africa and within Syria — and to other emergency situations.  Financing education in conflict-affected areas is essential if we are to come close to zero exclusion from education and reach MDG 2 by the end of 2015.

I would like to personally thank all of the organizations and institutions endorsing the statement to prioritize education for Syrian refugees.  I would also like to thank the UK government for the decision to be a significant donor to the education plan in Lebanon, the additional donors championing education in the region and the aid workers on the ground who put themselves at risk to serve others and deliver education.  I too endorse the mantra of the international organizations: Education Cannot Wait.