The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) brought together world leaders and education activists on 25 September 2015 for a high-level event as part of the United Nations Summit, marking the inclusion of education as a transformative stand-alone goal in the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Representing the Secretary-General, Ms Ban Soon-taek decried 'the terrible injustice of 59 million children being out of school," affirming that education unlocks progress across the development goals. "If these children learn now they will help our world later."
UNESCO Director-General and Executive Secretary of the GEFI Steering Committee, Irina Bokova, commended GEFI Champion Countries for catalyzing political and financial support for education. It is thanks to GEFI partners, that the Initiative’s three priorities of putting every child in school, improving the quality of education and fostering global citizenship are an integral part of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.
“The Global Education First Initiative has helped shape a new vision of education; as a human right essential to dignity and empowerment, and as a transformational force for inclusion, gender equality, and poverty eradication,” Ms Bokova said. “The Initiative has widened the lens away from access to the quality of education, to lifelong learning, to skills, to teaching and content, to education for sustainable development, and to global citizenship education.” She called for more champions, leadership and increased funding.
President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea highlighted the significance of the World Education Forum held in Incheon in May 2015 and pledged that her country would build on its outcomes, through support to ICT-based learning environments in developing countries, tackling gender inequality and taking an active part in efforts to foster global citizenship.
Recalling that her own father started night classes in a small village to teach illiterate women, First Lady of China and UNESCO Special Envoy Peng Liyuan affirmed that her Chinese dream is to ensure that all girls have access to quality education, noting that everyone can make a difference in changing the world. Education is crucial for addressing inequalities and giving youth the knowledge and skills to become responsible citizens, she said.
Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai asserted that "education is a basic human right, education is peace and hope," putting the spotlight on the necessity of providing 12 years of education and reaching out to the most deprived.
Special Envoy Gordon Brown passionately expressed his resolve to get every child into school, including by mobilizing resources and political will through the International Commission for the Financing of Global Education Opportunity, recently launched by the Government of Norway, co-convened by UNESCO, and which he chairs.
Presidents and foreign ministers from Australia, Ethiopia, Norway and Tunisia highlighted initiatives to place education first: Australia has launched a new education aid strategy that prioritizes marginalized groups, girls and persons with disabilities; Ethiopia allocates 25 percent of its budget to education under the motto "big, fast and good quality ;" while Norway has doubled its aid to education. UN Women affirmed that education and gender equality must go hand in hand to realize the transformative agenda of the SDGS.
The role of education in countering violent extremism, promoting tolerance and understanding was affirmed by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of Croatia, who drew attention to her country's recently launched new education strategy.
Alice Albright, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Partnership for Education, called on the global community to help fund education, asserting that it would only take 14 cents a day per child to fill the funding gap.
Representing the largest federation of teacher unions, Education International President Susan Hopgood called for a collaborative path to implementing the 2030 agenda, while Camilla Croso, President of the Global Campaign for Education, alerted on the risk of the commodification of education, stressing also the need to put the marginalized centre stage and to protect civil society’s actions in defence of the right to education.
In a ringing closing call to action, Nobel peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi stated that "we are accountable to each child not in school, every minute matters. Accomplishing all the SDGs begins now by ensuring inclusive, equitable and quality education for all children. We are going to make it happen."