Today’s post, by Qian Tang, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, is one in a series of ‘In my view’ pieces written by prominent authors on issues covered in the “Development Co-operation Report 2015: Making Partnerships Effective Coalitions for Action”
External support continues to play an important role in funding education – particularly in the least developed countries. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, with the development assistance provided by many countries stagnating and even declining, countries are seeking new sources of funding.
In this context, UNESCO has been experimenting with a novel type of partnership that is showing promise. The four-year UNESCO-China Funds-in-Trust project, which began in 2012, aims to support eight African countries* in their efforts to accelerate progress towards education for all by using new technologies to develop capacity in teacher education and training institutions.
What makes this project particularly innovative is the fact that it is being implemented through a platform, managed by UNESCO, that attracts funds not only from the government of the People’s Republic of China – with President Xi Jinping having publicly committed to the project – but also from Chinese enterprises based in China and/or in the beneficiary countries, such as the telecommunications giant Huawei. Each actor brings unique contributions – be they funds and/or technical know-how – to the table. Drawing on the competencies of each partner allows for effective use of human and financial resources.
What have we seen so far? For the beneficiary countries, learning from the development experience of another country has created a sense of joint purpose and helped overcome the mistrust between governments and the private sector that can sometimes impede action.
There have also been numerous benefits for China. This is the first time that the country has provided funds-in-trust via an international organisation for the development of education in Africa. The project has enabled China to demonstrate that it is a committed stakeholder in the global community. At the same time, it is allowing this new provider of development co-operation to become familiar with international practices and standards. The impact on Chinese enterprises is also important, helping them to gain awareness of their social responsibility towards the African communities in which they operate.
Of course, challenges remain. In order to ensure lasting impact, it will be important to integrate the project within national education development plans – an aspect that has not yet been sufficiently addressed.
For now, UNESCO is working to sustain the momentum of this new partnership and extend its reach. Building on the initial success, a number of additional Chinese donors from the public and private sectors have signed agreements with UNESCO: for example, Hainan Airlines and the Hainan Foundation are focusing their attention on girls’ and women’s education in Asia and Africa; the Shenzhen government is developing higher education in Asia and Africa; and Huawei is using new technologies to promote equity and quality in education in the least developed countries.
*The African countries supported by the UNESCO-China Funds-in-Trust project are: Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Namibia (first round); and the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Tanzania and Uganda (added in the second round).