September 21, 2017

How education and early years care were big winners at the UN this week

Every child in the world deserves to be at school and learning

Photo credit: Education Cannot Wait

Ewan Watt

Online Editor, Theirworld

With world leaders and international organisations in New York for the UN General Assembly, there were some major moments in the push to get every child in school and help them fulfil their potential.

Not long ago, it was a struggle to get anyone to talk about education during the week of the United Nations General Assembly.

But this week - as world leaders gathered for the annual top-level talks in New York - education was high on the agenda.

From giving young children the best start in life - to helping adolescents get the skills they need for the jobs of the future. From getting every child in the world into school - to providing education for those caught up in conflicts and natural disasters.

Thanks to hard-fought campaigning and innovation, education and learning was on the lips of many influential people, agencies and organisations this year at the UN. Here we look at some of the achievements and talking points over the past few days.

GBC-Education event

The Global Business Coalition for Education held an event titled Class of 2030 which brought together more than 130 high-level representatives from business, philanthropy and donor agencies.

It highlighted the leading role the private sector can play in bridging the growing skills gap faced by young people. By 2030, half of them will not have the basic skills needed for employment.

Money was pledged for Education Cannot Wait, which helps children in emergencies

Photo credit: Education Cannot Wait

The event - which also had a section on education in emergencies - featured several key announcements, including:

  • Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, said the EU will give an additional $11 million to the Education Cannot Wait fund for schooling in emergencies and will commit to giving 8% of its humanitarian aid in 2018 to education.
  • Denmark's Development Cooperation Minister Ulla Tømaes announced an additional $16 million for Education Cannot Wait.
  • HP will launch HP School Cloud to provide access to educational materials and apps to students, teachers and adult learners in rural and poor communities. It will also partner with GBC-Education and Education Cannot Wait to explore where new technology could support education in emergencies.
  • GBC-Education will work with RELX Group and LexisNexis Risk Solutions to create a digital platform for the REACT database that will match emergency relief needs in countries to corporate assets.

Youth skills initiative launch

A new Youth Skills and Innovation Initiative was launched to help young people be ready for the jobs of the future.

It brings together youth, industry leaders and experts to create solutions and take action to support the development of “new basic skills” needed by the next generation of innovators, makers and entrepreneurs. 

The initiative has been established by Intel Corporation and the Global Business Coalition for Education. It includes a new youth skills commission co-chaired by Theirworld President Sarah Brown and Rosalind Hudnell, Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Intel Corporation and President of the Intel Foundation.

Sarah said: “The challenge today is that there are few spaces where the business leaders are working directly with young people to create new skills and innovations that will be adopted by the next generation."

UNICEF chief Anthony Lake at the ECD report launch with World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Photo credit: Theirworld / James Cox

UNICEF on early years care

Theirworld last week called for countries to give 10% of their education budgets to preschool children.

A major report from the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF echoed that call. Launched today, it urges governments and partners to invest urgently in services that give young children the best start in life.

It said devoting 10% of all national education budgets to pre-primary “will greatly expand the number of children with access to early learning opportunities”. UNICEF also said all countries should provide two years of free pre-primary education for every child.

Education Commission's progress 

At last year's UN General Assembly, the global Education Commission launched its influential Learning Generation report. It presented evidence of why a change of course is needed to get every child in school - and how that can be achieved.

Its progress report this week reported on several developments including:

  • More than 20 developing countries endorsed the Learning Generation recommendations and agreed to prioritise education and be education champions.
  • The Education Workforce Initiative will launch in late 2017 to bring fresh thinking to the roles and assistance required for teachers and support staff to deliver quality education.
  • Progressive universalism – the Learning Generation’s proposal to expand opportunities for all while focusing on those most vulnerable and in the early years of life – has been embraced by several countries and international organisations.

Millions of children, including refugees, are still out of school around the world

Photo credit: Education Cannot Wait

Secretary-General's Education 2030 event

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hosted a high-level event called Financing the Future: Education 2030.

He made an impassioned plea on behalf of millions of young people at a UN event that featured several international leaders.

Guterres said: “Let us commit to quality education for all of the world’s children. Financing education is the best investment we can make for a better world.”

International Finance Facility for Education

At that event, the bold funding plan called the International Finance Facility for Education got some major backing. IFFEd will unlock an extra $10 billion each year and was supported by G20 leaders earlier this year, with Argentina to take it forward during its 2018 presidency.

Guterres said at the UN education event that IFFEd is a vital component in the push to deliver education for all. Keith Hansen, Vice President for Human Development at the World Bank Group, also pledged the bank's support for IFFEd.

IFFEd has now been endorsed by more than 30 international organisations and over 145,000 individuals.

GPE replenishment conference

France and Senegal announced they will help to mobilise $3.1 billion of education financing by co-hosting the Global Partnership for Education's replenishment conference in Dakar in February. 

GPE works with developing countries to ensure that every child receives a quality basic education.

Theirworld honoured the work of Anthony Lake, Irina Bokova and Jakaya Kikwete

Three leaders honoured

Theirworld and the Global Business Coalition for Education honoured three leaders who have made outstanding contributions in the ongoing efforts to give every child and young person in the world the opportunity to be educated.

They are UNICEF Chief Executive Anthony Lake, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and Jakaya Kikwete, former president of Tanzania and a member of the global Education Commission.

Education Cannot Wait funding

The fund was launched last year to provide money for education in emergencies such as conflicts and natural disasters. 

As well as additional money announced this week by Denmark and the EU, the organisation Dubai Cares has earmarked $500,000 for the response to the Rohingya refugee crisis.

It takes Education Cannot Wait's fundraising in its first year to more than $150 million.

Global Youth Ambassadors Sylvia Kakyo and Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu outside the UN headquarters

Photo credit: Theirworld / James Cox

Focus on education in emergencies

Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, told a UN briefing that children caught up in conflicts and disasters can face a "triple betrayal" - forced out of their homes, denied an education and at risk of violation.

He said: "Some 75 million children worldwide are caught in emergency situations and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. 

"The fate of out-of-school children in emergency situations often runs a well-worn course. Schools are bombed, and in some cases they are militarised, and from there children are recruited into militia, trafficked, raped or married off."

Brown said those guilty of war crimes against children should face justice - and we must finance the protection of every child’s right to an education, especially those in emergency situations.

Goalkeepers event

The inaugural Goalkeepers event was held by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to highlight progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals - including the target of getting every child in school and learning by 2030.

It featured a speech by former US President Barack Obama, who said we live in a world where "still too many girls are denied an education".

Our Global Youth Ambassadors

Two of Theirworld's network of Global Youth Ambassadors have been flying the flag for young people all this week at the UN General Assembly.

Sylvia Kakyo from Uganda and Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu from Cameroon have attended events, given awards to international leaders and met with decision-makers, activists and fellow campaigners.

Joannes said: "It's been very encouraging seeing education and early childhood development on the agenda at the UN. I just wish I had seen more representation of young people and their views at some of the events."

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