20 world leaders to sit on global education commission

Education funding

Children at primary school in Liberia Picture: UNICEF/Irwin

Five former prime ministers and presidents and three Nobel Prize winners are among 20 world leaders who will sit on a commission to review the future of global education.

They have been appointed to the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity – just days before the new international development agenda is agreed at the United Nations.

The commission is supported by the government of Norway and Prime Minister Erna Solberg and will be chaired by Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and former British Prime Minister.

It will examine how to reverse the lack of financing for education around the world, which has left 124 million young people out of school and hundreds of millions without quality learning opportunities.

Nigerian children at school for displaced people in Yola

The announcement comes as more children are out of school than a year ago and increased conflicts – such as the four-year war in Syria – has forced millions of children out of the classrooms to become refugees. 

The commission will explore how – over the next 15 to 20 years – education could lead to greater economic growth, better health outcomes and improved global security. 

It will be co-convened by the Prime Minister Solberg alongside President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, President Peter Mutharika of Malawi and the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova.

Prime Minister Solberg said: “Education is key to fighting poverty and I believe educating girls is the single most powerful investment for development. When you educate a girl, you educate a nation. 

“I am confident that the commission will play an important role in mobilising the resources needed to achieve education for development set out for 2030 and beyond.”

Erna Solberg and Julia Gillard sign the #UpForSchool Petition

The commission includes the following leaders:

Anant Agarwal, CEO, EdX
José Manuel Barroso, former President, European Commission
Felipe Calderón, former President, Mexico
Kristin Clemet, Managing Director, Civita, former Minister of Education and Research, former Minister of Labour and Government Administration, Norway
Aliko Dangote, CEO, Dangote Group
Julia Gillard, Chair, Global Partnership for Education and former Prime Minister, Australia
Baela Raza Jamil, Adviser/Trustee, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA)
Lee Ju-ho, former Korean Minister of Education
Jim Kim, President, World Bank Group
Yuriko Koike, Member of the House of Representatives, Former Minister of Defence, Japan
Anthony Lake, Executive Director, UNICEF
Jack Ma, Founder and Executive Chairman, Alibaba Group
Graça Machel, Founder, Graça Machel Trust
Strive Masiyiwa, CEO, Econet Wireless
Teopista Birungi Mayanja, Founder, Uganda National Teachers Union
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Finance, Nigeria
Kailash Satyarthi, Founder, Bachpan Bachao Andolan
Amartya Sen,  Professor, Harvard University
Theo Sowa, CEO, African Women’s Development Fund
Lawrence Summers, President Emeritus, Harvard University; 71st Secretary of the Treasury for President Clinton and Director of the National Economic Council for President Obama
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former Prime Minister, Denmark

The Nobel Prize winners on the commission are Mr Satyarthi, Mr Sen and Mr Barroso. Mr Dangote and Mr Masiyiwa are also founding members of the Global Business Coalition for Education.

Commission chair Gordon Brown meets refugee children in Beirut

Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of International Cooperation and Development for the United Arab Emirates. will join the inaugural meeting. Jeffrey Sachs, UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor, will join the third meeting. Malala Yousafzai will join the Commission’s youth panel.

World leaders meeting in New York at the UN General Assembly will agree to a new set of Sustainable Development Goals – but the goal on education requires an urgent action plan for financing if it is to be met and children are to have equal opportunity decades from now. 

Investments in quality education would lead to greater economic growth, better health outcomes and improved global security. The commission will address all of these linkages in building a compelling case to inspire and persuade world leaders to action.

It will meet on September 29 during the UN General Assembly to start building the economic case to inspire and persuade world leaders to action. In September 2016, it will report to the co-conveners and UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who has agreed to receive the report and act on its recommendations.

At the #UpForSchool Town Hall event on September 28, everyone attending will have the opportunity to send a message to the commissioners. It calls on them to consult young people, find a way to fund a place in school for every child, find a solution for education in emergencies and tackle discrimination as a barrier to education – particularly for girls.

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