- March 3, 2023

On 16 and 17 February, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) High-Level Financing Conference took place in Geneva. This was co-hosted by ECW with the government of Switzerland; and co-convened by the governments of Colombia, Germany, Niger, Norway and South Sudan.

Vladimir Cuk speaking from the audience On the day that Vladimir Cuk, Executive Director of the International Disability Alliance (IDA) was to take the stage to make his remarks at the recently concluded Education Cannot Wait High-Level Conference (HLFC) in Geneva, the chair lift to the podium malfunctioned. “It definitely looks like we staged this workshop to show how barriers affect participation,” Cuk said in his opening remarks. And indeed, the HLFC was a historic event that aptly highlighted the critical need for world leaders to take urgent action to remove barriers to inclusion of learners with disabilities in education in the emergency context.

The objective of the Conference was to mobilize resources to implement ECW’s new strategy for the next four years. The presence of a strong contingent of persons with disabilities – particularly youth with disabilities, at the Conference highlighted that investments in education in emergency cannot leave learners with disabilities behind. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this was the first time that Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) were front and centre at an education event of such magnitude, not as passive participants but as active partners in the discussions around inclusion. Along with Cuk, the IDA was represented at this Conference by Jose Viera, Advocacy Director of IDA along with our youth representatives Sara Lucia Gaviria Giraldo from Colombia, Fily Sidibe from Mali, Bernice Nsengiyumva from Burundi and Volodymyr Charushyn from Ukraine. In addition, Federica Settimi from Inclusion International and a delegation of the Iraqi Alliance of Disability Organization (IADO) also participated in the Conference.

Youth participants reinforced the need to put diversity of learners at the heart of education interventions. “Education that values diversity inspires inclusive societies,” said Sara Lucia G.

Jose Viera with the delegation of persons with disabilities from Iraq. There are a few people who are sitting on a bench and some standing on either side. There is a wheelchair user in the front.Jose Viera, who had several meetings with OPD participants and ECW office bearers on the side-lines of the Conference, shared that the presence of persons with disabilities, including as speakers, sends a strong message on inclusion. “This Conference has definitely set the bar high for other stakeholders.” Viera added. This comes on the heels of IDA’s new partnership with ECW, along with IDA member Inclusion International, which will be operationalized in Niger and Colombia. This project aims to bridge the gap between humanitarian actors OPDs.

Acknowledging this commitment from ECW, Cuk added “I would like to recognize ECW for taking this huge step towards inclusion. This is the time to act and we must seize this moment at this Conference to take concrete steps and take action NOW.” Cuk highlighted the need for world leaders to pledge more funds to ECW so that work on inclusive education can be scaled up. At the end of the two days, the Conference successfully saw pledges of over 826 million USD from 17 donors.

More details on ECW here.