Today, RESULTS US and RESULTS UK teamed up to run a panel discussion at the Annual Meetings of the World Bank in Tokyo, Japan. The session took place as part of a week of meetings between civil society and World Bank staff, and aimed to increase pressure on the Bank to fulfil its promise to increase funding for basic education programmes for the world’s poorest children. The session built on some great campaigning work led by RESULTS US and the recent publication of the report ‘Staying the course? The World Bank’s pledge to basic education‘.
The panel was chaired by Takafumi Miyake (Secretary-General, Japan NGO Network for Education) and the panelists were: April Golden (Global Partnership for Education), Katie Malouf Bous (Oxfam International), Tony Baker (RESULTS US), and Carolyn Reynolds (The World Bank).
What’s the background?
In 2010, there was huge concern that while the World Bank’s funding to education programmes worldwide through its International Development Association (its so-called “fund for the poorest”) was increasing overall, it was actually decreasing in most of Sub-Saharan Africa where it was needed most. Also funding wasn’t being effectively coordinated with the Education for All – Fast Track Initiative (now the Global Partnership for Education), an initiative deliberately set up as an additional catalytic fund to support those countries most off-track on providing basic education (note the ‘additional’ – GPE wasn’t supposed to substitute existing funding, but add extra).
The World Bank’s 2010 pledge
So there was much relief at the UN Millennium Development Goals Summit, in New York, in 2010, when then-President of the Bank Robert Zoellick and Senior Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala announced that the World Bank would increase financing for basic education in countries most off-track from achieving universal primary education (MDG 2).
Robert Zoellick announced:
“To help countries achieve the education MDGs, the World Bank commits to increasing its zero-interest investment in basic education by an additional $750 million. These investments will focus on the countries – particularly in Sub Saharan Africa – that are not on track to reach the education MDGs by 2015.”
Later that day, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala followed up with even more good news – that the “additional $750 million over the next five years to 2015″ would “represent about a 40 percent increase in our basic education lending over the past five years for the poorest countries“.
She went on to say “in order to yield the highest impact, the Bank will seek to leverage these additional IDA funds to support low-income countries that receive financing from the Education for All Fast Track Initiative“.
With a pledge committing increased resources for basic education in Sub-Saharan Africa and those countries supported by the GPE, the World Bank had successfully positioned itself to address some of the most threatening trends in basic education financing.
End of story? We wish.
Instead, what we’ve seen since 2010 is the World Bank back-tracking and changing the goalposts on its pledge to deliver an additional $750 million for basic education. In particular, they’ve changed the annual baseline figure that they use to calculate that they are delivering “a 40 percent increase” over “the past five years“.
The statement made by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in September 2010 could only have meant using a $1.2 billion annual baseline. IDA lending for basic education for the last five years (FY06-10) had been about $4.9 billion, so around $1.2 billion a year. Add the “40 percent increase” the Bank promised, and that means $6.8 billion would be provided to basic education over the next five year (FY11-15), or around $1.36 billion a year. Still with us?
Yet somehow, in Autumn 2011, the Bank changed its tune about the annual baseline it would use to measure its extra investment in basic education programmes. Suddenly, they started using a significantly lower 11 year average from FY00-10 as the baseline, bringing the baseline down to a much lower $742 million a year. So instead of talking about $6.8 billion for basic education over five years, this now means the Bank is aiming for only $4.5 billion. What difference does this make? It means the recalculated pledge is a $2.3 billion cut to basic education.
So now it’s 2012, and the celebration around the World Bank’s 2010 pledge of extra support to basic education has turned into a nightmare. With the pledge today being completely different from what it was when it was made in 2010, unsurprisingly it is failing to rectify the issues that it was created to address in the first place.
What failure means
Support to basic education in most of Sub-Saharan Africa is decreasing. In the first year (FY11) of upholding its pledge, the World Bank had a nine-year low in the total support it delivered to basic education, and in the second year (FY12), it provided less financial assistance for basic education in Sub-Saharan Africa than it had in over a decade.
The recalculation of the Bank’s pledge baseline is not only harmful to the Bank’s credibility in the international education community but, of course, is most painful for the 132 million children denied access to primary and secondary education.
Unfortunately, at our panel session in Tokyo, Carolyn Reynolds, Senior Communications Officer representing the World Bank, reiterated the same Bank position that the 2010 pledge was always based on the 11 year annual baseline figure. We were disappointed, but is that the end of the story…?
Dr Kim’s chance for change
In July this year, Dr Jim Yong Kim became the new President of the World Bank. This is a crucial opportunity to change the situation, restore the Bank’s credibility and make sure the Bank is helping more of the world’s poorest children get an education. Dr Kim should restore the 2010 pledge to its original intent: a $750 million increase to a $1.2 billion annual baseline, totaling $6.8 billion over the 2011-2015 period. If Dr Kim acts now, the Bank can still fulfil its promise to basic education for the world’s poorest children on the right terms.