07 December 2017
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay made the case for investment in education as the key response to the challenges of globalization, during the first edition of the International Economic Forum of the Americas - The Conference of Paris, held at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on 7 December 2017.
“Education offers the most sustainable response to tackle the root causes of challenges from digital transformation and climate change to rising populism and violent extremism,” she said during a plenary session, entitled “Is Globalizaton Losing Ground?”, organized in collaboration with L’Oréal. “Today, education inequalities are creating dangerous fault lines within and across our societies, at all income levels, weakening economic growth and social development.”
Opening the debate, Mr Jean-Paul Agon, CEO of L’Oréal, called for a redefinition of globalization around “reconnecting with people, culture and our planet,” affirming that “we share the conviction that a more equitable, balanced and sustainable form of globalization is possible.” He stressed the key role of the corporate sector in advancing education, skills development, social integration and human rights for all. OECD’s Secretary-General Angel Gurría stated that inequalities in access to opportunities was a key factor in the globalization backlash, stressing the need for national skills strategies for addressing youth unemployment and the mismatch between labour market needs and available skills.
In spite of all the powerful evidence about the impact of education on poverty reduction and a wide range of development indicators, however, Director-General Audrey Azoulay warned that education’s share of total aid, excluding debt relief, fell six years in a row, from 10% in 2009 to 6.9% in 2015. Sub-Saharan Africa received 26% of basic education aid in 2015, less than half the 2002 level. She stressed the utmost priority of stepping up investment in girls’ education as a “huge factor of transformation,” also underlined by Mr Agon.
While asserting that governments are on the frontlines of this fight because education is a human right and a public good, she called for reinforced engagement of the private sector to anticipate skills, bridge the digital divide, reinforce work-based learning and improve technical and vocational training. This is critical, she said, for driving research and innovation, and stands in the interest of companies that need “resilient, inclusive and stable societies to grow and prosper.” She drew attention to UNESCO’s partnerships with L’Oréal for women in science as well as with companies such as Ericsson, Procter and Gamble and Microsoft for literacy, education and mobile learning.
Beyond skills for employment, the Director-General stressed that education is about transmitting values for citizenship, sustainable development, respect for the other and mutual understanding in our fragmented but deeply interconnected world. “In this environment, we more than ever need education, culture and institutionalized international cooperation for a more stable and peaceful world”, she said.
Pascal Lamy, the President of Emeritus, Jacques Delors Institute, concurred with this comprehensive vision, stressing that “cultural insecurity is as much a problem as social and economic insecurity.”