What is the Civil Society Education Fund?

The Civil Society Education Fund (CSEF) is a unique and ambitious global programme that supports citizen engagement in education sector policy planning, budgeting and monitoring. CSEF operates in a number of Global Partnership for Education (GPE) affiliated developing countries.CSEF is founded on a shared understanding among key stakeholders that strong, broad-based and locally-driven civil society participation in these processes is crucial to ensuring the delivery of national and international education goals and to holding governments to account for commitments to education.

CSEF was set up by the Global Campaign for Education in 2009 to support the core work of national education coalitions so that civil society can fully engage with and track the progress of national governments and donor groups working towards the United Nations Education For All (EFA) goals. The CSEF programme was developed and is managed by the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), in close collaboration with regional implementing partners. Coordinated through regional agencies that provide programmatic assistance and guidance to various national and regional coalitions, CSEF works with the following networks in these regions:

  • African Network Campaign on Education For All (ANCEFA) in Africa
  • The Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE) in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • The Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE) in Asia and the Pacific
  • Arabic Campaign for Education For All (ACEA) in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

Three Financial Management Agencies (FMAs) are responsible for fund management and technical capacity building in each of these regions, namely:

  • CSEF Africa
  • CSEF Latin America and the Caribbean
  • CSEF Asia and the Pacific

In addition, the GCE Secretariat acts as an interim FMA for the Middle East, North Africa and Europe region.

The CSEF is primarily funded by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a multilateral partnership devoted to getting all children in the world’s poorest countries into school GPE does this by bringing together partners to help developing countries access critical technical and financial resources, as well as global and local expertise, to achieve their education goals. Complementary funding for CSEF has also been provided by the ‘German BACKUP Initiative – Education in Africa’, and through the Spanish Cooperation Agency for International Development (AECID) support for non-GPE partner countries in Latin America, managed directly by the Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE).


GCE and its partners believe civil society has a distinct and crucial role to play in holding governments and donors accountable, to ensure relevance and equity within education plans, programmes and budgets. This requires the broad-based and informed participation of citizens, and this participation is dependent on effective and coordinated civil society formations to facilitate engagement. CSEF therefore focuses its support on national civil society coalitions, with nationally driven agendas.

National education coalitions promote awareness of education rights and policies mobilise organisations and citizens to engage and challenge local governments when their rights are not delivered; and represent citizens’ views in official policy spaces. In this way, CSEF plays an important role in bringing together a wide range of citizens’ voices and perspectives – including, and perhaps especially, those not usually heard in policy-making. Since its initiation CSEF has supported more than 60 national civil society education coalitions across Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. This was CSEF’s first phase.

The second phase of CSEF was delivered between 2013 and 2015. The context for this phase was the need for civil society to maintain pressure on governments to boost efforts towards the achievement of the Education For All goals and the Millennium Development Goals, before their deadlines in 2015.

An external evaluation and a GCE-led global analysis in 2015 of the successes, achievements, and lessons learnt helped evaluate the impact of the second phase of CSEF, with the conclusion that it was an ambitious yet successful programme.

CSEF III: 2016-2018; Aim and Objectives

The current and third phase of CSEF (CSEF III) started in early 2016, coinciding with the new global commitments to the ambitious UN Sustainable Development Goals and Education 2030 Framework for Action. In both frameworks the commitment to inclusive quality education was ranked high, as was the importance of civil society in achieving the targets. SDG 4 speaks directly to the goals of the CSEF, and aims to “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning” for “Obtaining a quality education is the foundation to improving people’s lives and sustainable development.”

The overall CSEF programme goal of better informed national policy dialogue and strengthened government accountability to citizens for the achievement of equitable, inclusive and quality public education is to be achieved through three objectives:

Objective 1: To support effective civil society representation and engagement in education sector policy dialogue.

Objective 2: To support active public outreach and citizen engagement in the generation/use of research on quality, equity, financing and education system reform.

Objective 3: To ensure global and regional processes relating to GPE and SDG 4 better inform – and are better informed by – national and local civil society.

CSEF Linkages to GPE

The CSEF programme as a whole particularly reinforces the proposed objectives of Global Partnership for Education’s strategic plan ‘GPE 2020’, especially Strategic Objective 3 on effective and inclusive policy dialogue (which is the core focus of Objective 1 of the CSEF programme). CSEF is also in line with GPE Strategic Objective 2 on strengthening planning and policy implementation, and GPE Strategic Objective 4 which emphases building of partnerships. The latter is built into CSEF Objective 3 which focuses on ensuring that national civil society engagement informs and is informed by global-level dialogue within GPE, as well as links to regional and global processes to monitor and improve SDG4 implementation.

Specifically, the CSEF programme aims to help coalitions to engage with the official GPE planning processes – which in most cases are coordinated through a Local Education Group (LEG). At the end of 2015, over 86% of all CSEF coalitions in countries with an active LEG were engaging in this process.

Ultimately, the CSEF programme aims to have coalitions in all GPE developing country partners.

GPE 2020 is GPE’s strategic plan covering the years 2016-2020, which aligns the Partnership’s vision and mission to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). CSEF is committed to GPE’s 2020 strategy, so that together we can help to achieve equitable, quality education and learning for all in all GPE countries.