Standing up for the right to education at Global Child Forum‎ in Stockholm

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© UNESCO

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova highlighted the need to forge wide-ranging and innovative partnerships to realize the right to education during her participation in the Global Child Forum, at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden on 26 November, 2015.

“There is no better investment than educating children, because this is investing in skills, in competences. We need to scale public-private partnerships and we need to build them into wider development efforts,” said Ms Bokova, recalling the thrust of Sustainable Goal 4 -- to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all and promote lifelong learning opportunities.”

The Global Child Forum, an initiative spearheaded by Their Majesties the King and Queen of Sweden five years ago, aims to reinforce and bring attention to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to encourage companies to step up their corporate responsibility. The 2015 Forum shines the spotlight on the corporate sustainability agenda.

The Forum gathers prominent decision-makers and representatives from government, business and civil society to make the legal, moral and business case for investing in coming generations.

In his opening remarks, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden stated that the Global Child Forum is making Stockholm a centre of knowledge on children’s rights, affirming that the Forum aims to focus on opportunities within the business and finance sector to contribute to advance children’s rights and “speed up the necessary action to improve the situation of children."

The Director-General drew attention to prevailing educational inequalities, aggravated by the refugee crisis.

“This situation throws a shadow over entire societies, over the very notion of global progress. Educating these children is a human rights issues, a development necessity, a security imperative.”

She recalled the transformative power of education – its impact on reducing child marriage and early pregnancy, and on improving health, well-being and income.

Turning to public private partnerships, she outlined UNESCO’s projects with Samsung on education for sustainable development in Vietnam and digital villages in Nigeria, with Procter and Gamble on literacy and skills in Senegal and Nigeria, and with Ericsson in Myanmar to expand access to the Internet and improve teacher training. She also drew attention to the advocacy led by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Digital Development to make connectivity and the digital revolution work for development.

The Director-General was joined by Mr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who focused on the impact of the migration crisis on children.

With over 30 million children affected, he urged that « States should make clear in legislation and most importantly in policy and practice that principles of children’s best interest takes priority over immigration status and other administrative consideration. All of us can help to support peace and sustainable development – business, government and as global citizens we can raise our voice to send a positive and principled message on migrant’s rights.”

Ms Winne Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, urged for a twin focus on gender inequality and economic inequality.

"These inequalities can be addressed through access to health and education - these are universal public services that must be free for children."

She warned that public-private partnerships are too often flawed and do not work for poorest children who remain trapped in poor quality education.  

"To harness full potential of private sector, we need to move from partnerships to policies that have social impact," she said. 

Nestle's Hilary Parsons, representing the Chairperson of the Board of Directors, ‎noted the importance of creating sharing value and informed about the company's measures to conduct human rights assessment programmes in countries where they operate, and to integrate the UN Framework into corporate and management principles.