Oslo Summit: Building on Incheon to Step Up Commitment

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UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, with the Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg.
© UNESCO/Cynthia Guttman
07 July 2015

The Oslo Summit on Education for Development opened on 7 July with passionate appeals for increased investment to leave no one behind and commitments from the Government of Norway to reverse the downward trend in international support.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg pledged a doubling of Norway's aid to education and announced the launch of an International Commission on the Financing of Global Education Opportunities that will be co-convened by the leaders of Norway, Indonesia, Malawi and Chile, with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, and UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown. 

The Commission will identify and strengthen investment cases for domestic, donor, private and innovative financing. The initiative was welcomed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who said it will provide vital insight into the economic case for investment in education and make recommendations to achieve the goals. 

"We need to find smarter approaches that will make it possible to reach the new sustainable development goals by 2030," said the Prime Minister. She said that policies should be guided by the Incheon Declaration's commitment to inclusion, quality, equity and lifelong learning, summed up in the proposed SDG4. Norway will place special focus on girls' education, quality of learning, skills a‎nd education in emergencies.

She also announced funding for a new network on quality and teachers and Norway's interest in establishing a joint platform to improve coordination on education in conflict and emergencies. 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on world leaders to ‎carry the Incheon Declaration forward and to push for a bold set of sustainable development goals at the New York summit in September, stating that mobilizing additional resources was essential to achieve universal education. 

Speaking at a plenary panel on quality and learning, the Director-General thanked the Government of Norway for its outstanding leadership and underlined the significance of the Incheon Declaration's comprehensive vision. 

Drawing on a key lesson from the past 15 years, she said that "we don't need just any kind of education - we need quality education in tune with needs of societies, with the future of the planet, relevant to employment and that promotes new forms of global citizenship, the humanities and cultural diversity. Quality education is the only path to sustainability. "

She stressed that quality education starts with teachers, who are the game changers for quality and gender equality, also highlighting the impact of learning in mother tongue in primary school.  She emphasized the need for greater attention to the educational experience of adolescent girls, the aim of a Joint Programme launched by UNESCO, UN Women and UNFPA. 

During the Panel, the Prime Minister of Niger Brigi Rafini said that quality of education ill adapted to development needs is worse than no education. He said that the main solution is to invest in teachers, and appealed for increased financial assistance. ‎ ILO Director-General Guy Ryder stressed the need for better education to work transitions. The President of Japan's International Cooperation Agency Mr Akihiko Tanaka noted the impact of better linkages among teachers, between curricula and assessment as well as between communities and schools, pointing to successful examples. USAID's Associate Administrator Eric Postel focused on projects to improve early learning and girls' education. Education International's Secretary-General Fred van Leeuwen stressed that quality rests on three pillars: teachers, tools and environments, reiterating that education is a global public good. 

Malala Yousafzai, Laureate of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, speaking in the name of all children denied an education ‎, appealed to world leaders to aim higher and to invest more in education so that every child has the right to a full cycle of primary and secondary education.

"The issue is not lack of money but lack of commitment. Books not bullets will pave the way towards peace and prosperity," she said.

Referring to the USD 39 billion funding gap to achieve primary and secondary education, she said this represented 8 days of world military spending. 

Leaders present at the summit include President Kagame of Rwanda, Prime Minister Sharif of Pakistan, Prime Minister Rafiniof Niger, Prime Minister Evans Paul of Haiti, Global Partnership for Education Chair Julia Gillard, UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, the principals of UNICEF, UNFPA, UNHCR and ILO, numerous multilateral and civil society partners and youth advocates.