UNESCO, in partnership with the Governments of Ghana, Norway and the United Kingdom, are convening a virtual Global Education Meeting on 20 and 22 October. The meeting aims to secure commitments from leaders for the protection of education financing during the COVID-19 recovery, and produce consensus on priority actions for the next year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created the most severe disruption to global education systems in history, forcing more than 1.6 billion learners out of school at the height of the crisis. It has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities and impacted vulnerable learners the hardest. The pandemic threatens to reverse decades of progress in education. The economic downturn will put increasing pressure on national education budgets and aid to education at a time when higher funding is required for the sector to recover. According to projections, even if the budget share allocated to education remains stable, overall public spending could drop by 8% and aid to education could fall by 12%.
In this context, the meeting will provide a unique platform for exchange among high-level political leaders, ministers, policy-makers, multilateral organizations, development partners and global education actors to protect and rethink education in the current and post-COVID-19 world.
The event is a strategic opportunity for Member States and the international community to maintain and boost their commitment to education as the most critical investment for a sustainable recovery and future.
A set of global priority actions for the recovery and strengthening of education systems will focus around the following five themes considered central to the COVID-19 response:
- Protect domestic and international financing of education
- Reopen schools safely
- Focus on inclusion, equity and gender equality
- Reimagine teaching approaches and learning outcomes
- Harness equitable connectivity and technologies for learning
These action areas build on recommendations in the UN Secretary-General’s policy brief on “Education during Covid-19 and beyond” coordinated by UNESCO as well as the White Paper produced by the Save our Future campaign.
A technical part of the meeting will take place on the 20 October from 1 to 4 pm (CEST – Paris), followed by a high-level segment on the 22 October from 1 to 5 pm (CEST – Paris).
During the high-level event, keynote speakers, to contribute live or via recorded video message, include the following heads of state: João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço (Angola), Félix Tshisekedi (D.R. Congo), Iván Duque Márques (Colombia), Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Hage Geingob (Namibia), Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (Portugal), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Kaïs Saïed (Tunisia). The Presidents of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, and of the Italian Council, Giuseppe Conte, Saad Dine El Otmani, Head of the Government of Morocco, as well as the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, are also expected to attend.
At the ministerial level, speakers include Baroness Sugg, Minister for Overseas Territories and Sustainable Development of the United Kingdom and Bekhzod Musayev, Deputy Prime Minister for Social Development of Uzbekistan. The European Commission will be represented by Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnerships. In addition, nearly sixty Ministers of Education from the five continents will take part in the exchanges.
The United Nations will be represented by its Secretary-General António Guterres; the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay; Omar Abdi, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF; David Beasley, Executive Director of the WFP (World Food Programme). Also in attendance are Queen Mathilde of Belgium, champion of the UN Sustainable Development Goals; Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, champion of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and President of the Education Above All Foundation; Jayathma Wickramanayake, Special Envoy for Youth of the UN Secretary General; and Gordon Brown, Special Envoy for Education.
Among the international organizations represented was the Secretary-General of the OECD, Angel Gurria. Julia Gillard, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Partnership for Education, and Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University are also expected to speak.
Prior to the meeting, UNESCO facilitated a series of consultations on a Declaration to be adopted at the meeting committing the international community to act to safeguard education.