At an event held to mark the one-year anniversary of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, global leaders stressed the need for more leadership and better coordination of funds to deliver on the global education promise.
NEW YORK, United States of America, 30 September 2013 – An event to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) brought together governments, youth, activists, education leaders and artists at United Nations headquarters on 25 September. The event was convened by the GEFI Secretariat and UNESCO and moderated by United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown.
While progress has been made to achieve global education goals, 57 million children remain out of primary school, and 250 million children either do not reach Grade 4 or, if they do, fail to attain minimum learning standards.
Leadership, to deliver on the promise
The first part of the event, on leadership, asked panelists to discuss access, quality and global citizenship – the three priorities of the Initiative. A sense of urgency for world leaders to accelerate progress towards achieving global education goals was established from the start.
“Less than 900 days away from 2015, we need a breakthrough in education,” said Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova. “Leadership and partnership are our guides. Leadership for innovation. Partnership between governments, intergovernmental organizations, civil society and private sector.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke about education in broader terms with a powerful message on the need to be idealistic and work together. “We’ve got to dream of a better world. We’ve got to be people with idealism…When I dehumanize you, I dehumanize myself. If I help you to prosper in a wonderful, wonderful way, you get to prosper, as well.”
Young education rights campaigner Malala Yousafzai also stressed the importance of leadership through peace and collaboration. “We can fight wars through dialogue and through peace,” she said. “Instead of sending tanks, send pens. Instead of sending soldiers, send teachers. This is the only way that we can fight for education…And I believe that, if we work together – that, if we are united for the cause of education, we can achieve our goal.”
Chinese pianist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lang Lang spoke about the leadership that musicians and the world of arts can provide. “As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for over 10 years, I am all too familiar with the stories from children who continue to be denied their right to an education,” he said. “Music cuts across cultural and national divides including age, gender and creed…Artists can reach millions of people in all corners of the world with positive messages.
“Through my music, my role with the United Nations and my foundation, the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, I will continue to advocate for the right of all children to a quality education.”
Financing, to achieve learning for all
The second part of the event was a roundtable on finance that was co-chaired by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, World Bank President Jim Kim, and Mr. Brown. Participants included ministers of education and finance, the Global Partnership for Education and bilateral and multilateral donor agencies.
“Globally, leaders must place education at the top of our common agenda…but aid for education has dropped for the first time in over a decade,” said Mr. Ban. “The cost of reaching our goals is far less than the price of failing the world’s out-of-school children.”
Mr. Kim stressed that learning is one of the important factors for driving economic growth. “This commitment [to education] must also be reflected in domestic budgeting, with governments placing due emphasis on quality education as an essential investment in country competitiveness, job creation, and economic growth.”
Chief Executive Officer of the Global Partnership for Education Alice Albright summed up the proceedings and spoke about the strong need for additional resources. “We simply don’t have enough resources,” she said. “Will we leave the world’s refugees behind because education has fallen to only 1.4 per cent of human aid?”
Throughout the week, Learning for All bilateral meetings, including with Afghanistan, Chad, Myanmar, Pakistan, Somalia and Timor-Leste, took place to discuss the coordination of financing and concrete steps to accelerate progress toward ensuring that all children can go to school and learn.
“Let us light the way ahead to 2030 and prove that our political will matches our dreams,” said Ms. Albright.
Millennium Development Goal 2 is Achieve universal primary education.
More information on progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets and remaining challenges
Story by Daria Ng