Action on global education and youth skills at UN General Assembly week

Main Image Roundup Unga
Clockwise, from top left - UN education envoy Gordon Brown with youth activists at the Make the Impossible Possible event, a striking scene from Goalkeepers 2018, children who benefit from Education Cannot Wait and Syrian refugee students who took part in Theirworld's school snack programme in Lebanon

Barriers to education, Child soldiers, Children in conflicts, Education Cannot Wait, Education funding, Education in emergencies, Girls' education, Global Youth Ambassadors, Gordon Brown, Refugees and internally displaced people, Sarah Brown, The Education Commission, The Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education), Theirworld, United Nations General Assembly, Youth skills

A major funding breakthrough, the #WriteTheWrong campaign launch and youth voices being heard are among the highlights in our roundup from New York.

What a week that was! Getting every child a quality education and giving them the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow were high on the agenda as the international community gathered in New York.

At events in and around the United Nations General Assembly, calls for urgent and meaningful change were made, heard – and acted upon.

There was a breakthrough moment on a funding plan to get 200 million children into school. A major Theirworld campaign on the global education crisis was launched. 

Innovative ideas were unveiled. Pledges of investment and partnerships were made. And at the heart of everything, the voices of young people were heard – calling for decisive and lasting action in the struggle to get every girl and boy into school and learning.

Their News was in New York to see it happen. Here is our roundup of some of the key moments from a memorable week.

Global leaders back $10bn education funding plan

Youth Activists With Gordon Brown

UN education envoy Gordon Brown – who chairs the Education Commission that devised IFFED – is pictured at the Make the Impossible Possible event with youth activists, including Global Youth Ambassadors for Theirwold

A bold funding plan to get 200 million children into school took a giant leap forward when it was backed at the United Nations by world leaders, the business community and international donors.

Crucially, the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd) – the single biggest investment in education in history – was supported by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. He said “Let me be clear – we are completely behind IFFEd.”

Theirworld has been campaigning hard for IFFEd – particularly through the youth-led #MakeImpossiblePossible petition. Our Global Youth Ambassadors and other young people collected 1.6 million signatures that were handed in at the UN.

At the inspiring Make Impossible Possible event in New York, many international donors also said they are ready to help establish IFFEd, which will unlock $10 billion in new funding for education. 

Gordon Brown is the UN Special Envoy for Global Education and chair of the Education Commission, which proposed IFFEd in its landmark 2016 report The Learning Generation. At the event, he said: “Let us remember that if we don’t bridge that gap 800 million children will still not be leaving school without proper qualifications and 260 million will still not be going to school. It cannot be done simply by the old ways.”

Read the full story

#WriteTheWrong campaign seen around New York

Theirworld launched its #WriteTheWrong campaign – with a powerful film highlighting the global education crisis which has left 260 million children out of school. 

Narrated by actor and child rights campaigner Gwendoline Christie – best known for her roles in the TV series Game of Thrones and Star Wars movies – the video depicts the mass scale of the global education crisis and the realities faced by the one in five children who are out of school. 

The film was shown at major events during UN General Assembly week – including at the Make the Impossible Possible at UN headquarters and the Action Plan 2030: Time to #WriteTheWrong gathering hosted by the Global Business Coalition for Education.

The film and campaign design was produced pro bono in partnership with global marketing and communications agency Omnicom, as part of the UN Common Ground Initiative. 

Giant #WriteTheWrong billboards were also displayed in New York’s Times Square.

Helping to #WriteTheWrong on education and youth skills

Sarah Brown At Gbc Education Event In New York

Sarah Brown addresses the Global Business Coalition for Education event in New York (Lana Wong)

Business leaders are becoming even more focused on how to prevent hundreds of millions of young people being left without the skills needed for the workforce of tomorrow.

At an event held by the Global Business Coalition for Education titled Action Plan 2030: Time to #WriteTheWrong, more than 100 key representatives from business, philanthropy, international institutions, government and civil society spoke passionately about what needs to happen to create change and unlock the potential of young people.

Several major announcements made it an even more inspiring event. Sarah Brown, Executive Chair of GBC-Education and President of Theirworld, unveiled a report that reveals 1.8 billion young people are at risk of missing out on jobs of the future unless the global business community shows leadership and comes up with new solutions.

The Danish government announced it will contribute $185 million to the Global Partnership for Education, $46 million to Education Cannot Wait and $17 million to UNICEF education programmes.

HP pledged to back 120 million learning outcomes by 2025. Education Cannot Wait announced the winners of the Resources Mobilisation Challenge. Hilton Worldwide said it has committed to double its investment in countries where youth opportunities are lowest.

The Global Shapers Community says it will facilitate 50 interactions that will bring together stakeholders to explore the youth skills report, consider what it means locally and to take action.

The event also featured a passionate plea by two teenage Palestinian students to save their schools for 256,000 children that are threatened by a funding crisis.

Read our live blog from the Action Plan 2030: Time to #WriteTheWrong event.

Report reveals our meals programme gets more refugee children in school

Syrian Refugee Children On The Lebanon Snack Programme


School feeding programmes for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon mean children went to school more often and performed better in the classroom, a report by Theirworld has revealed.

Our school snack programme – the only humanitarian feeding project in the country to produce statistical data – showed the introduction of free healthy meals saw attendance rise by 7% and diet diversity increase.

The three-year pilot – supported by players of the UK People’s Postcode Lottery – has engaged with 4000 Syrian refugee and local Lebanese children in the Bekaa Valley and Mount Lebanon areas since it began in 2016.

Read the full story

Major boosts for Education Cannot Wait

It’s been an amazing week for Education Cannot Wait, the fund that provides learning in humanitarian emergencies including conflicts and natural disasters.

Donors stepped up with new pledges of almost $70 million from Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Dubai Cares – increasing the fund’s resources by a third to $273 million. 

ECW also announced $35 million of support for multi-year programmes that will help to educate 1.6 million children and youth in Uganda, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

The three winning ideas in ECW’s Resource Mobilization Challenge were announced at the Global People’s Summit- with each receiving $25,000 for developing a business plan.

And film star Will Smith bungee-jumped from a helicopter over the Grand Canyon to raise awareness of – and money for – Education Cannot Wait!

Read the full story

Youth voices are heard on the world stage

The A World at School Global Youth Ambassadors are a network of young people at Theirworld who campaign on education and youth skills in more than 85 countries.

We brought two of them – Gideon Olanrewaju and Omotoke Olowo – from Nigeria to raise the voices of young people are several events in and around the UN General Assembly this week.

They featured on stage in front of international leaders at the Make Impossible Possible, #WriteTheWrong and Concordia events, as well as attending other meetings.

You can see more pictures of Omotoke and Gideon’s exploits in New York on Theirworld’s Instagram page.

Leaders call for no girl to be left behind

Leave No Girl Behind Campaign Unga Roundup

Over 130 million girls are not getting an education (UN Photo)

The leaders of France, Canada and the United Kingdom called on countries to boost efforts to educate girls – warning that “catastrophes” can result from failure to provide access to quality schooling.

More than 130 million girls, many in conflict-ridden or poor regions around the world, do not attend school. A lack of education puts girls at risk of child marriage, poor health, early pregnancies, joblessness and poverty.

“It’s an investment. If we don’t do it, then we will be preparing for catastrophes,” French President Emmanuel Macron said at a UN event called 12 Years to Break Barriers and Leave No Girl Behind.

British Prime Minister Theresa May called on other nations to ensure girls have access to 12 years of free quality education. She said: “Improving access to education is not only the right thing to do, it’s also at the heart of the UK’s drive to boost economic growth, improve stability and reduce conflict around the world.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “When you empower women to take better decisions than have been taken in the past, we all end up benefiting,” 

Calls for more action on education for refugees

UNICEF’s Action for Refugee Education meeting aimed to catalyse support to ensure that refugee children’s right to education is fulfilled.

International leaders agreed on the importance of integrating refugee children into national school systems, ensuring that both local and displaced communities can benefit from further development.

UNICEF Chief Executive Henrietta Fore said: “It is time for the international community to step up with more technical and financial support, and help host countries scale-up their education services. Regardless of their circumstances, all children deserve learning opportunities that meet their needs and offer them – and us – hope for the future.”

UNICEF also launched a partnership with Microsoft Corp. to tackle the education crisis impacting children and young people affected by conflict and natural disasters. They are developing a “learning passport” – a digital platform that will be tested and piloted in countries hosting refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons.

Youth 2030 strategy is launched

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres unveiled Youth 2030 – a strategy reflecting the organisation’s new commitment to working with and for young people. 

Youth 2030 will act as an umbrella framework to guide the UN across its three pillars of peace and security, human rights and sustainable development.

Officials also launched Generation Unlimited as part of the Youth 2030 strategy. It is a global multi-stakeholder partnership initiated by UNICEF to “ensure that every young person is in education, learning, training or employment by 2030”.

Generation Unlimited will tackle the global education and training crisis currently holding back millions of young people and threatening progress and stability.

Generation Unlimited leaders include Guterres, Gordon Brown, World Bank President Jim Kim and Julia Gillard, Chair of the Global Partnership for Education.

Goalkeepers action on early literacy and ending child marriage

Goalkeepers Event Unga

(Max Roser / Twitter)

The second annual Goalkeepers events focused on the potential of young people to propel global progress.

Three new high-level partnerships, called “Accelerators,” were announced that will catalyse progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals by offering funding and programmatic support toward increasing early literacy, eliminating child marriage, and empowering young people to use data to drive change.

The literacy Accelerator will expand Room to Read’s programming in India, Vietnam, and South Africa with $3.5 million in new funding from Credit Suisse, Dubai Cares, and Four Acre Trust – furthering Room to Read’s goal of reaching more than 1.1 million additional children in these countries over the next three years.

Another Accelerator will launch the Girls First Fund, a collaborative new partnership to end child marriage. It will identify the most promising community-based organisations – particularly those led by girls, women and youth – and provide them with multi-year funding to develop and pursue local solutions to ending child marriage.

Coalition on reintegration of child soldiers is urged

Child Soldier Transit Centre Central African Republic

(UNICEF / LeMoyne)

Countries, civil society organisations and representatives of the United Nations  united at an event on the reintegration of child soldiers to help improve their fate and ensure they can find a place back in their communities.

Recruitment means children miss out on education – but the effects run even deeper.

Virginia Gamba, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, emphasised the vulnerability of children living in conflict zones, as they remain the first casualty of war. She said: “Survivors are left with both trauma and stigma. Without the possibility of reintegration, children are left with little hope to rebuild they lives.”

She called for the creation of a global coalition on reintegration to provide the best possible reintegration for former child soldiers by ensuring broad support and knowledge sharing. 

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