UNESCO convened an extraordinary online Global Education Meeting where Heads of State and Government, ministers from over 70 countries and international partners participated.
The governments of Ghana, Norway, and the United Kingdom and adopted a Declaration expressing strong commitment to protect education financing and outlining measures to be adopted over the next year to safeguard education from the devastating impact of the disruption caused by COVID19.
UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay said, “At a time when countries are making difficult choices and trade-offs to turn societies around, education must be our top priority, our pillar for recovery. And yet only a miniscule share – on average less than 1% – has been set aside for education and training in national stimulus packages. Financing education is not a cost: it is our most crucial long-term investment. If we do not allocate this funding now, we will face a bleaker future.”
The UK’s Special Envoy for Education, Baroness Sugg, highlighted the focus of the United Kingdom’s G7 presidency, “The UK is standing up for every girl’s right to 12 years of quality education – putting this issue at the heart of our G7 Presidency and co-hosting a major Global Education Summit next year to raise funds to get children into school and build back better from coronavirus.”
The meeting brought together the Secretary-General of the UN, the presidents of Angola, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Namibia, Portugal, and Rwanda, alongside the prime ministers of Italy, Morocco, Norway, and Spain, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister for Social Development of Uzbekistan, and SDG Advocate Queen Mathilde of Belgium.
Over 65 ministers of education from the five continents took the floor in the meeting to share measures to counter the impact of the pandemic on learning, along with multilateral and regional organizations, the Global Partnership for Education and the Education Above All Foundation, among others.
Affirming that “education is at the heart of the EU’s investment in development”, the European Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen announced, “the decision to increase EU financing of assistance to education in partner countries under my responsibility from 7% to 10%.”
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy declared that quality education will be one of the pillars of the Italian G20 presidency in 2021 that will focus on people, planet and prosperity.
The endorsed Declaration defines priority actions that are essential for educational recovery in the coming 15 months:
- Taking every measure to reopen schools safely and inclusively;
- Supporting all teachers as frontline workers and paying serious heed to their training and professional development;
- Investing in skills development from the socio-emotional dimension to gaining competences for new jobs;
- Narrowing the digital divide that has shut out education for one-third of the world’s students.
- The endorsed Declaration firmly also condemns recent attacks on teachers, students, and schools and reaffirms the role of education and teachers.
In their interventions, numerous participants recognized UNESCO’s role in improving global education coordination to accelerate progress towards SDG4. This echoes the Declaration that requests UNESCO to examine and propose strategies to recover and accelerate progress and to strengthen the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee to steer and coordinate global cooperation in education.
As part of the Global Education Meeting, a group of global organizations called for urgent investment in education to prevent a generational catastrophe. Releasing a joint White Paper, the Save Our Future campaign—a movement of the biggest education multilaterals in partnership with over 600 civil society organizations, research organizations, foundations, media, youth, and influencers—set out an evidence-based roadmap with concrete recommendations for governments to build education systems back better.