10 turning points for global education during the United Nations General Assembly

Gordon Brown, Up for School or #upforschool campaign


The momentum for universal education continued to build at the United Nations General Assembly in New York – as world leaders, CEOs, government, civil society and celebrities came together in a series of high-profile meetings and events.  

Here are the top 10 highlights of a memorable week from September 22 to 25 that will make a difference for the 58 million out-of-school children across the globe:  

1. Youth launch #UpForSchool Petition



Youth leaders at the rally in Washington Square Park

The week kicked off with hundreds of young people holding a youth rally in Washington Square Park, hosted by A World at School. They launched the #UpForSchool Petition and aim to make it the largest petition in history. Global leaders, including politician and activist Graca Machel and UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, joined them. Organisations came forward to support the call to action by pledging signatures. Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi of Pakistan pledged to collect three million signatures, the World Evangelical Alliance will collect more than one million signatures across its global movement, Education International to mobilise six million teacher signatures and Ricken Patel of the campaigning website Avaaz said he would collect another two million names. 

Every signature matters. Sign the #UpForSchool Petition.

Graca Machel addresses the #UpForSchool lrally, watched by Gordon Brown, Baela Jamil, Ahmad Alendawi Ricken Patel and Peter Vesterbacka

A message to the rally from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon


2. Technology takeover


Strive Masiyiwa and XPrize Senior Director Matt Keller, left, with Gordon Brown

At the A World at School September Forum, Strive Masiyiwa – founder of Econet Wireless – joined Gordon Brown to announce a $15 million XPrize for Global Literacy. Then more than 70 technology entrepreneurs, business leaders and academics convened to discuss the next phase of a “Global Education Platform” technology initiative to deliver learning to the most marginalised.

There was also a meeting to consider five models for using technology to deliver education to the most marginalised. A discussion followed, moderated by the Center for Universal Education at Brookings Institution Director Rebecca Winthrop, where meeting participants deliberated and prioritised a potential technology model.

Panellists from Pratham, UNICEF Innovation and GBC-Education members Discovery Communications and Microsoft


3. Oslo Summit announced


Norway’s State Secretary Hans Brattskar announces the summit

The Norwegian government, in cooperation with Gordon Brown, announced the Oslo Summit for early 2015 – focusing on the bilateral coordination of development assistance to tackle the out-of-school populations in key countries. The announcement was made at the A World at School September Forum’s Education Countdown plenary, which featured Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Founder of Educate a Child; HE Elias Saab, Minister of Education, Lebanon; Andris Piebalgs, EU Development Commissioner; and Peter Vesterbacka, the Mighty Eagle of Rovio Entertainment, makers of the Angry Birds game. Joining Norwegian State Secretary Hans Brattskar during the plenary session were development heavyweights Antonio Gutteres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Director of UNICEF; Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development, Canada; Holiday Reinhorn, author and co-founder, Lide Haiti; and Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education. The UN special envoy also launched a roadmap to 2015.

4. Countries step up support


Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif meets Gordon Brown

Development partners met with a series of heads of state and ministers of education and finance to move forward with plans to address the education gap in various countries, in several high-level meetings convened by Gordon Brown. Plans for more than $300 million in investments were announced to support the 10.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria, as well as the Safe Schools Initiative. The presidents of Malawi, Cote D’Ivoire and Tanzania all announced their willingness to work with the international community to draw up plans for the remaining out-of-school children to be in school by the end of 2015 – as promised in Millennium Development Goal 2. In a bilateral meeting between the UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Mr Brown pledged to raise funds to increase literacy and improve education in Pakistan.

5. First child marriage-free zone and girls’ education


Barla Jamil from ITA Pakistan

Baela Jamil at the #UpForSchool youth rally in New York

Baela Jamil, Director of Programmes at Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi in Pakistan, announced that the Child Marriage Free Zone programming funded by the Global Business Coalition for Education has started. This is the first in a series of initiatives to enforce child marriage laws in the country and keep girls in school. Girls’ education also took centre stage at the Clinton Global Initiative where Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton announced a girls’ CHARGE commitment.

6. Joint agenda for health and education goal


Mama Kikwete, V. Shankar, Mark Dybul and Rajiv Shah

The global health and education agendas merged in a convergence session chaired by Sarah Brown featuring First Lady of Tanzania, Mama Kikwete; USAID Administrator, Rajiv Shah; Global Fund Executive Director, Mark Dybul; and CEO of Africa, Middle East, Europe and the Americas for Standard Chartered, V. Shankar. The session mobilised major donors around the notion of joint investments to accelerate simultaneous progress across both sectors. Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and film maker Richard Curtis also contributed to the session.

7. Business leaders walk the walk


The Global Business Coalition for Education executive breakfast

From early childhood development to the use of technology to deliver education, the Global Business Coalition for Education launched the Early Childhood Education Task Force, the global education platform framework, as well as a new report – alongside Pricewaterhouse Cooper – titled Planning for Impact: Measuring Business Investments in Education. At the end of the week, 20 multinational corporations representing 10 industries convened to lay out a strategy for business engagement in the education sector for 2015.  Business kicked off the week at its annual GBC-Education Executive Breakfast with business leaders including Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek, Intel Foundation President Shelly Esque, ReedSmith Partner David Boutcher and McKinsey & Co. Managing Director Dominic Barton. Several former heads of states joined, including Julia Gillard, former prime minister of Australia and Chair of the Global Partnership for Education, and former President of Malawi Dr Joyce Banda.

Former Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of the Global Partnership for Education discusses the importance of girls’ education and accountability

PricewaterhouseCoopers Charitable Foundation President Shannon Schuyler with A World at School co-founder Sarah Brown and GBC-Education Advisory Board member Justin van Fleet

Intel Foundation President Shelly Esque discusses Intel’s SheWillConnect initiative, which seeks to connect five million young females in Africa over the next three years

Kate James, Pearson’s Chief Corporate Affairs officer, announces the company’s #projectliteracy campaign and their support for the #UpForSchool petition

After the breakfast, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, EU Commissioner Andris Piebalgs and Lebanon education minister Elias Bou Saab joined a panel discussion


8. Education for Syrian refugees brought to forefront


World leaders convened as part of the “No Lost Generation” Initiative to pledge support for Syrian refugee children. The Minister of Education from Lebanon spoke on the opening plenary of the A World at School September Forum. The UN Special Envoy for Global Education met with the ministers of education from Lebanon and Jordan at UNICEF House alongside UNICEF Executive Director, Tony Lake, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Gutteres, EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and UK Minister for International Development Justine Greening where donors announced efforts to help the Syrian refugee population through pledges totaling $350 million.  

9. Youth Courage Awards


Rabia Faridi Youth Courage Awards Angelique Kidjo Lang Lang

Award winners Rabia Faridi with Angelique Kidjo and Lang Lang

The UN Special Envoy for Global Eucation announced the winners of the 2014 Global Education Youth Courage Awards at the #UpForSchool youth rally. There were nine recipients and every one of them has a remarkable story to tell. Pianist Lang Lang and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo recognised the winners at the A World at School September Forum.

10.  World leaders give support


Michelle Obama and Chernor Bah, chair of GEFI’s Youth Advocacy Group

From the Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) event to the MDG Advocates Breakfast, world leaders continued to highlight the importance of education. At the GEFI event at the UN, Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States, gave a keynote address. Other speakers included Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, Sheikha Moza of Qatar, founder of Education Above All, and Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister and United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education joined UN Deputy Secretary-General  Jan Eliasson, President Park Geun-Hye of the Republic of South Korea, Denmark’s Prime Minister Hell Thorning-Schmidt and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, alongside other heads of state, to support education.

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