The annual gathering of world leaders for the 69th United Nations General Assembly and the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City last week demonstrated a growing momentum to bring quality education to more of the world’s children. Throughout the week there was encouraging evidence of the education sector’s rise in prominence on the global development agenda.
Education is attracting more and higher level support from the international community as discussions on the new Sustainable Development Goals get under way. I was pleased to see that education is increasingly recognized as a cross-cutting issue core to any successful sustainable development.
For example, in meetings with leaders and ministers from the Global Partnership’s donor and developing country partners, as well as with various non-governmental organizations and multilaterals, we heard a growing commitment to make equitable, inclusive and quality education a stand-alone goal in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.
Greater education equity and the importance of adequate resources to give all children access to quality schooling were strong themes in almost all meetings I attended. There is a clear and mounting consensus that, as our Board Chair, Julia Gillard, wrote recently, one of the most important lessons of the Millennium Development Goals is that without equity we cannot truly fulfill the promise of education.
Korea Joins the Partnership and Denmark announces additional funding
The Global Partnership also welcomed a new donor partner last week when the President of the Republic of Korea, Ms. Park Geun-hye, announced that her country would join the Global Partnership for Education. On behalf of her government, President Park pledged Korea’s first contribution to the GPE Fund – US$5 million – making Korea the Global Partnership’s 22nd donor partner.
We are thrilled and enormously grateful to President Park and to the Korean people for their support of education. Korea offers all of our partners a vivid case study of how strong investments in education can transform a nation’s standard of living and global presence.
Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Danish Prime Minister, announced an additional contribution of US$ 9 million for the Global Partnership at the Global Citizen Festival. This is in addition to a significant increase in funding for the Global Partnership that Denmark had already made in June at our replenishment conference.
Girls Charge Expands the Constituency for Girls Education
The mission of Education For All, especially for girls, acquired more visibility and enthusiastic support when former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Julia Gillard unveiled a new initiative, Girls Charge, at the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting on September 24.
The Global Partnership for Education was particularly pleased to announce its specific commitment to Girls Charge, a broad coalition created to get more girls around the world in school and learning at higher levels of achievement than ever before. Girls Charge is a CGI Commitment to Action organized by the Brookings Institution with 30 partner organizations.
Throughout the week, several members of the Secretariat staff and I participated in Learning for All follow-up meetings, chaired by Gordon Brown, U.N. Special Envoy for Education, with leaders from the governments of Tanzania, Malawi, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and Her Highness Sheikha Moza speak up for Girls’ Education
The U.N. Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) brought together education sector leaders to share ideas and news about needs and progress around the world.
While this year’s theme was quality education, much of the discussion focused on how education must be reinforced in the face of crises such as the conflict with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the impact on schools in Lebanon due to Syrian refugees and the growing outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and Qatar’s Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, an MDG advocate and founder of the Qatar-based Education Above All Foundation, declared their support for expansion of efforts to give more girls access to quality schooling. Sheikha Moza made clear that a quality education for all children remains a critical part of the education sector’s unfinished agenda as we consider the way forward for post-2015. It was heartening to see how seriously Ms. Obama is engaged on this issue, though not entirely surprising, given her strong statements in the wake of the infamous kidnapping of several hundred girls in Nigeria this past April.
Again, UNGA week was as encouraging as it was hectic, and it demonstrated that education is on the rise of the global development agenda.