Opening speech at the Partnering for Education

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Oslo, 6 July 2015

Opening speech at the Partnering for Education - Civil Society and Innovative Business Side Event.

Excellences, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,It is inspiring and encouraging to be here today, among so many partners for education.        

Investing in education is perhaps the most important investment  any government can make. When we invest in young girls’ education, we invest in the future.

When we build new schools, we are building a safer, more prosperous world for us all.  Lack of education is, I believe, one of the main reasons why 1.2 billion people are still living in extreme poverty.

As a former president of Harvard University, Derek Bok, puts it: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” 

The challenges we face are huge: 58 million children and 63 million adolescents remain out of school. 250 million children and young people are not learning the basic skills that they need to enter the labour market. 

The Oslo Summit on Education for Development is our response to these challenges.

If we are to succeed in laying the foundation for change – and eradicating extreme poverty by 2030, we must invest more in access to quality education for all.

I would like to make four points today: 
First: the right to education should be realised for all – for all groups, in all countries, and for boys and girls.

Girls have the same right as boys, not only to have access to education –but also to complete their education. Every community and country that succeeds in achieving gender equality in education, will see the benefits in terms of enhanced health, equality and job creation in the future.

We must also make sure that minorities and marginalised groups, particularly children with disabilities, are not left behind. 

Second: investing in education is an investment in the future. We are facing an annual global financing gap in the range of 22 billion dollars for ensuring basic education. This is a significant amount, but once again: we should see this not as an expense, but rather as an investment. 

All countries, regardless of their national wealth, stand to gain from  ffering their children a high-quality education. A recent OECD report suggests that if every child is given access to education, and acquires the basic level of skills needed to participate fully in society, - the result would be an annual increase of 28 % of GDP in lower-income countries, and 16 %  in high-income countries over the next 80 years.

Governments have the main responsibility for delivering education for all. Domestic resource mobilisation is vital in all countries – including in developing countries, - which need to allocate sufficient resources to education.

But donors need to rise to the challenge, too. We must reverse the recent decline in official development assistance for education, especially to the least developed countries. Investing in education in developing countries is one of the best ways we can spend development assistance funds. 

Third: partnerships and innovation are important in order to be able to deliver quality education for all. Looking ahead to a broader and more ambitious post-2015 development agenda, we must reach out to form the partnerships that are needed to bring about innovative solutions and results on the ground. Increased interaction with the private sector is key. 

The private sector has a key role to play, not least in expanding ICT infrastructure and supplying digital content and services. 

Thanks to the digital revolution, the learning environment in many parts of the developing world is set to change. Gaining access to digital services and information can in itself be empowering, not least for women and girls. 

Fourth: we need a particular focus on education in emergencies and conflicts. An estimated 37 million children are out of primary and lower secondary school in countries affected by conflicts, and natural disasters.   

The statistics give cause for concern, but should also spur us into action: 3 million children are out of school as a result of the Syria crisis. 1 million children are no longer attending school after the recent earthquakes in Nepal. And schoolchildren and students in Somalia, Nigeria and Pakistan have recently been the victims of appalling attacks at their schools and universities.  

These are the children we want to help. We need to both rovide education for these children and protect education from attacks.

If we fail to do so, the negative consequences of conflicts and emergencies will be even greater – because robbing these children of their education, means robbing them of their future.   

We must do what we can to give them hope for the future. And the best way to do this, is to give them a classroom where they can learn and grow.

I hope that the Oslo Summit will help us to deliver results on the ground, by forming a champions group to advance global action, by establishing a set of principles that reaffirm our agreed commitments, by setting up a common platform to improve the current aid architecture, and by addressing the financing gap.  

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, I would like to return to where I began. It is inspiring and encouraging to be here. 

This joint event by civil society and the private sector is exactly the kind of partnership that is needed - if we are to achieve our goal of access to quality education for all. 

Thank you.