Action on education in emergencies and funding announced at Oslo summit

Children in conflicts, Education funding, Education in emergencies

Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brend addresses the summit

World leaders have committed today to urgent action to reverse the decline in support to education around the world.

The decision came at the Oslo Education for Development Summit – the day after new figures showed the number of children out of school has gone up while aid to education has dropped.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende revealed the action points and committed to double his country’s funding for global education. 

He said: “What is holding back progress is first and foremost a lack of commitment. The Oslo summit has helped mobilise this commitment.”

The Oslo Declaration includes these announcements:

  • The launch of a high-level International Commission on the Financing of Global Education Opportunities to explore and invigorate the case for investment in education and reverse declines in funding
  • An agreement to set up a common platform to improve how aid is provided in emergencies – including conflicts and natural disasters – and urgently address the gap in funding of education in emergencies

Gordon Brown in a panel discussion on stage at Oslo

Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, will chair the new commission and gave his full backing to the moves.

On the aid for emergencies initiative, he said: “While we do something about shelter, food and healthcare, we are doing almost nothing about education.

“There is agreement now that we must go ahead at speed. There will be a meeting at the United Nations in September to finalise plans. This couldn’t have happened without Norwegian leadership.”

The European Union Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, announced his objective to dedicate 4% of the EU humanitarian aid budget to education for children in emergency situations. He said: “No child should miss out on education. We want to make education a priority in emergency situations so that more children can have access to learning, to teachers, to a brighter future. I am truly committed to this cause”.

Before the summit, hosted by the Norwegian government, world leaders had been urged to act quickly to create a fund for education in emergencies. Led by A World at School, more than 30 of the world’s leading charities and campaign organisations issued a joint statement calling for a public commitment for such a fund to be made in Oslo.

Global Youth Ambassador Hellen Griberg makes her plea

The two-day summit was organised to mobilise strong and renewed political commitment to reach the 59 million children who are still being denied their right to education, and to improve learning outcomes for those who attend school.

On its opening day, data published by UNESCO showed that globally one in 11 children – or 59 million – children were not at primary school in 2013, a rise of 2.4 million since 2010. International aid to education has dropped to below 2010 levels and is grossly insufficient to meet education targets to achieve universal primary and secondary education.

Today the summit heard a passionate speech by Hellen Griberg – one of A World at School’s 500 Global Youth Ambassadors in 85 countries. She said eight million people had now signed the #UpForSchool Petition, which demands world leaders keep to their promise to get all children into school and learning.

She added: “This is a civil rights movement led by young people demanding our right to an education. We need to see urgency and political leadership equal to the scale of this crisis. It’s time for action.”

Ben Hewitt, A World at School’s Director of Campaigns, said: “The demands of eight million people who have signed the #UpForSchool Petition have been shared with world leaders. They heard our outrage that last year only 1% of all humanitarian aid went to education, leaving millions of children out of school due to wars and natural disasters.

“Today in Oslo these leaders have publicly backed our call for action on funding for education in emergencies and further announced an important new international commission to reverse the wider funding crisis in global education.

Malala says spend money on books, not bullets

“This is a crucial first step, the result of increased momentum over the past couple of months thanks to campaigners all around the world and the leadership of the Norwegian government. The hard work starts now to turn these commitments into increased resources and increased access to education.

“We must now build the campaign in the run-up to the UN General Assembly in September and continue to remind world leaders that we are watching and they must deliver.”

Earlier, education campaigner Malala Yousafzai addressed the summit on her return to Oslo, where she received the Nobel Peace Prize late last year.

She said the Millennium Development Goal of the right to primary education had been set too low. She said the new Sustainable Development Goals – the roadmap for the next 15 years – should include the right to secondary education.

Malala said the $39 billion extra needed to fund global education each year is the same as the amount spent every eight days on weapons and military. She added: “Books are a better investment in our future than bullets. Books, not bullets, will pave the path towards peace and prosperity.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also addressed the summit today and paid tribute to the Pakistani schoolgirl, saying: “Malala and her schoolfriends embody the courage of girls resolved to claim their rights. They are the world’s best answer to global threats.”

Ban Ki-moon and Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg

He added: “This Oslo summit is a chance to reaffirm the human right to education. It is an opportunity to mobilise political commitment.

“And it is our moment to galvanise international support for education as the world prepares to adopt a new set of sustainable development goals to guide the struggle to achieve a life of dignity for all.”

In a passionate closing address to the summit, Gordon Brown spoke of the 30 million children around the world who have been displaced by conflicts or natural disasters. He described them as: “Many of them fearful for their future, most of them never getting the chance to ever return to school, some of them young enough to have never been at school and may never be at school at all.

“They desperately need us to speak up for them and to make sure that they too have the right to education in the future.”

Mr Brown said the new UNESCO report showed that – on current trends – it would be 2086 before every child is in primary school. He added: “We have got to do something about this crisis.”

He said the average amount of aid going to education in developing countries is far too little to make a real difference. Mr Brown added: “Even when we combine all the money that is going to education … then the average amount of money spent on the education of a sub-Saharan Africa child is only $80 per year compared with the $8000 spent on children in Norway, in Britain, in America.”

Join the movement of eight million people – sign the #UpForSchool Petition.

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