Speech at UNESCO High Level Breakfast Event

UN Headquarters, New York City, 19 July 2016

Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway (right) and Director-General Irina  Bokova at UNESCO High Level Breakfast Event, at UN Headquarters in New York City on 19 July 2016. (Photo: Office of the Norwegian Prime Minister).

 

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Irina, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is great pleasure for me to participate in this meeting to discuss what policies and data are needed to ensure that no one is left behind in education.

This is a subject that is close to my heart. I believe equity in education is the key to unlocking opportunities for everybody to enjoy a better life. The SDGs are all about building inclusive societies. As co-chair of the SDG Advocacy Group, I welcome new knowledge about which children and young people are in danger of being excluded.

Leaving no one behind means that we need to count those who are currently invisible in the statistics. These include children with disabilities, children living on the streets, and children from different language and ethnic groups. Children in situations of conflict or protracted crises are at particular risk. To make informed policies, we need data on the invisible children and why they are not in school. But once they are in school, we also need to know that they are learning.

However, data on its own is not enough. It needs to be used in the right way. This requires broad engagement with all relevant actors. Only then can we acquire the data needed to inform policies. This in turn can help us improve practices and channel resources to where they are needed most. It is important to include those who are directly involved in this work: teachers who know the situation in the classroom and the children’s specific needs.

Girls’ education is one important area where we need to move from words to action. Gender-disaggregated data is now available, but this has not led to a shift in priorities. Nor has it triggered the financing needed to tackle gender-based violence and other barriers to girls’ education. Insufficient political will has been identified as one of the main reasons for this lack of progress.

Worldwide, 37 million children and adolescents are out of school due to crises and conflict. The situation in Syria has shown that the international community has done too little too late. School provides a sense of normality and hope, and helps build skills that give young people opportunities for the future. It will be even more challenging to build inclusive and sustainable societies if children and young people are denied an education.

The main responsibility for education rests with national governments. Domestic resource mobilisation is the key to filling the annual financing gap. According to the Global Education Monitoring Report this amounts to USD 39 billion. Aid will continue to play a role, especially in the poorest countries, in fragile situations and for marginalised groups.

However, donors have to be smarter and more strategic in the way we support countries, helping them to overcome the barriers to domestic resource mobilisation and policy implementation. This includes helping to build capacity for strong and sustainable education systems.

The downward trend in aid for education over the past years must be reversed. We need a renewed and compelling investment case for education. And we need a financing pathway for achieving universal access to quality education.

This is why Irina (Bokova) and I initiated the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunities, together with the Presidents of Chile, Indonesia and Malawi. The Commission was established last summer and is chaired by the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown.

Two weeks ago, the commissioners met in Oslo for their fourth and last meeting. In September, they will hand over their report to the UN Secretary-General who has promised that he will act upon its recommendations. I have high hopes that this report will mobilise greater political will and more financial resources.

When my Government took office almost three years ago, we made education the top priority in Norway’s development policy. We are in the process of doubling aid for education over a four-year period, with particular focus on girls’ education, quality and learning outcomes, vocational training, and education in emergencies and protracted crises.

We have chosen a broad and comprehensive approach, using a variety of channels and partners. We want to spur action at the global, national and local level. Norway is a strong supporter of multilateral institutions including Unicef and Unesco. We are doubling our support to the Global Partnership for Education.

A substantial part of our funding is also channelled through civil society. It is important to build accountability and engagement at the community level, and local NGOs can play a key role, involving parents and local communities. 

It will be a challenge to reach SDG 4 and the other goals. But the new development agenda also offers a unique opportunity. For the first time in history, we can succeed in providing quality education for all children and young people. Let us all work to make this happen!

Thank you.