Historical archive

Opening Address at High Level Dialogue on Equality and Education

Historical archive

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide opened the high level dialogue on equality and education at the African Union Conference Centre in Ethiopia.

His Excellency Jakaya Kikwete,

Her Excellency Professor Mary Teuw Niane, Minister of Education, Chair Special Technical Committee – Education, Science and Technology

Her Excellency Professor Sarah Anyang Agbor, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to start by thanking the African Union's International Centre for Girl's and Women's Education in Africa (AU/Cieffa) for arranging and for inviting Norway to co-host today's High Level Dialogue. I also would like to commend you for your work to broaden AU's policy on education for girls.

I am very pleased to be here today to speak on a topic close to my heart – education.

Norway cooperates closely with the African Union.

We have a strategic partnership on peace and security, good governance and human rights – and on education.

Investing in education is the most important thing we can do to promote sustainable development.

Giving all boys and girls in all countries a high-quality education is the best investment we can make for the future.

Nelson Mandela once said that 'education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world'.


A lack of jobs is a severe challenge in many developing countries.

Many girls and boys do not get the education they need to master basic skills. Too many leave school without the necessary skills to enter the job market.

This is a tremendous challenge given the fact that the already large proportion of young people is growing globally.

It could turn into a vicious circle of unemployment and a poorly qualified workforce.

Unskilled youth run the risk of having low paid jobs in the informal sector. The situation is particularly challenging in Africa.

This is why the African Union's declaration of the 'African Decade of Technical, Professional and Entrepreneurial Training and Youth Employment' is so timely.

The quality of learning must improve at all levels of the education system.

A massive upgrading of STEM – or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – is critical for job creation and sustainable development.


Education is a top priority for Norway's development policy.

Our development policy is directly linked to the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Norway has more than doubled its support to education from NOK 1.7 billion in 2013 to NOK 3.6 billion this year. This has provided learning opportunities for more than three million children annually.

We put special emphasis on education for girls. Because girls often do not have the same opportunities as boys.

We know that girls tend to drop out of school much earlier than boys do.

The reasons are many: schools that are unsafe and unfriendly for girls, issues of sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), and the failure of parents to understand the value of education for their daughters.

In most countries, the opportunities for learning STEM are not equal for girls and boys.

Girls often believe that the STEM subjects are only for boys.

We must encourage more and better teaching in these subjects throughout the education system. An army of dedicated and well-trained teachers is needed to translate our strategies, plans and ideas into reality.

We must increase the enrolment of girls into courses on engineering, manufacturing and construction. Jobs in these areas will grow faster than the average rate of job growth.

We all share the AU's vision. Boosting education in the STEM subjects for girls and women is critical to prevent countries in Africa from missing the opportunities offered by new technology.

I cannot stress enough how important this is for the empowerment of women.

When we give girls equal opportunities to boys, their chances of getting a job increase.

When young women take up studies in the STEM subjects, they improve their chances of a professional career.

This gives them the power to shape their own lives. These women become economical independent, can stand on their own two feet, and can make their own decisions.

To the benefit of society as a whole.


Education must be inclusive and innovative.

All boys and girls deserve a free, quality education.

This includes the poorest children, minority children, children with disabilities, and children in areas affected by war and conflict. No one should be left behind.

We also need to take innovative approaches, and to use new technology.

Governments, the private sector and civil society need to join forces to make technology a driver for inclusive learning and equal opportunities.

We are acutely aware that we do not know everything about future job markets.

The private sector knows more, and can identify demands sooner than we can. The private sector will create most jobs in the future, and access to skilled labour will be crucial for business development.

Close cooperation between governments and industry on vocational education and training is critical. We must tailor learning and training to the local job market and private sector development.


Let me take this opportunity to talk more broadly about Norway's work for global education.

While more children and young people are going to school than ever before, SDG 4 (Sustainable Development Goal) on education is still a distant dream for millions.

There is a long way to go before every child gets a high-quality education.

This is why we must continue our concerted international effort to ensure that all children receive a good education.

National resource mobilisation and ownership are key.

We are pleased to see that, in a number of countries – particularly here in Africa – there is growing momentum to invest in education.

At the same time, national governments need international support and funding in order to improve their schools and education systems. Norway will continue to do its utmost to support you.

Norway strongly advocates continued funding of the Global Partnership for Education. We also took part in the work to establish the Education Cannot Wait fund to bridge the gap between humanitarian aid and long-term development assistance in the area of education.

We urge donors to support the establishment of a new international finance facility for education (IFFEd) linked to the multilateral development banks.

This is a recommendation of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, which was initiated by Malawi and Norway among others in 2015.

The Commission made a strong argument for investment in education as a driver of economic growth and sustainable development.

His Excellency Jakaya Kikwete is a key member of this Commission, and I look forward to listening to his keynote address here today.

I also look forward to hearing the perspectives of Minister Niane and Commissioner Sarah Anyang Agbor in their welcome addresses.


We must give children and young people the skills they need for the job market.

This is crucial. Not only for economic growth and sustainable development.

But also to enable all children and young people to shape their own future.

Only then can they help to shape our common future.