Aksel Jakobsen is Norway's State Secretary of International Development.
1. Norway is a global leader on education and health. What is Norway’s role to ensure that the education & health nexus remains a priority on the global agenda?
Norway is a committed partner to the sustainable development goals for health and education, and the two are mutually reinforcing. Education is strongly liked to healthy behaviors, and a healthy population will have better education results.
It is important now that we do not diverge from the course set to reach the goals. The pandemic is not only a health crisis; it is also an education crisis. We support health initiatives working to mitigate the immediate health risks while continuing to support education partners in their efforts to reopen schools safely, globally.
2. Norway was just elected as a member of the UN Security Council for 2021-2022. What role does education play in Norway’s strategy to promote peace, development and human rights?
We will work consistently to safeguard international law, including human rights, and to make conflict prevention an integral part of the Council’s work. Conflict is a great barrier to education, and education plays a central role in Norwegian development priorities and will continue to do so in the time ahead.
The Safe Schools Declaration is a case in point of how education fits with Norway’s priorities, as its aim is to prevent attacks on educational facilities. Education is a human right, and education is a driver of both peace and development.
3. COVID-19 is causing disruptions to education around the world. Especially those furthest behind such as girls and children with disabilities risk being left out. How can Norway’s expertise be leveraged in the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to ensure innovative and inclusive approaches are in place to leave no child behind?
Norway stands firmly behind the principle of leaving no one behind. We know that out of school children are at risk of ending up in child labor or of becoming victims of trafficking or child marriage.
The risk is particularly great if care providers have lost their income too, which is the case in many families due to COVID-19. It is therefore imperative not to lose sight of these children and get them back to school as soon as it is safe.
This message should be conveyed to partners on the ground and to teachers. This means that we must focus on the poorest, girls and children with disabilities.
Our main priority is ensuring a safe return to school but where this is not possible we must work towards providing inclusive, innovative approaches. The Global Digital Library is a positive example, but where connectivity is limited, teacher training, community schooling and TV/Radio alternatives should be further explored and developed.