June 30, 2017
New York: Joined at the opening session by UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, the UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed and the Founder of Building Africa’s Future Foundation, Saul Mwame, Peter Thomson called for a “massive scaling up of efforts. We have to transform the way we think invest, partner and deliver on education. We have to get the wheels of implementation moving faster than they have been.” For this, he recommended higher investment in early childhood, teachers, innovation, lifelong learning along with educating young people to take ownership of the SDGs.
The Director-General commended Peter Thomson for his powerful vision of education. “Education is the foundation for inclusive, sustainable development. It is a wellspring of hope and peace,” she said highlighting that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promises to leave no one behind, and that this must start on the benches of school. “Education is a transformational force that cuts across all of the SDGs, that makes all progress sustainable across the board.”
“For the moment, this is not happening,” warned the Director-General explaining that 264 million children, adolescents and youth are out of school – most of them girls, 50% of refugees have no access to secondary education.
In this context, the Director-General called on every government to make education a priority and to allocate 4-6% of their gross domestic product to education. She underscored the importance of “transforming education to empower everyone with the values and skills they need for resilience, for sustainability, for dialogue and peace in societies of rising diversity, and the importance of harnessing innovation, to increase the reach of education and enhance its quality.”
Quoting the President of Colombia, Manuel Santos, the Director-General said, “More resources for education means less for war. An educated people is a peaceful people.”
Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohamed affirmed that “SDG4 is the docking station for all the other Goals,” and cautioned on the scale of unfinished business. She focused on action in five areas: new approaches to financing; new ways to harness innovation to deliver education to the hard to reach; a bolder resolve on girls’ education, especially at secondary level; TVET and lifelong learning and reaching those trapped in humanitarian crises. “There is no better investment than education for a future of peace and resilience,” she said.
This was echoed by 18-year old Saul Mwame of Tanzania: “my parents never went to school but they were determined to make sure I have an education. Sustainable development comes through quality education that fosters creativity and prepares youth to be responsible problem-solvers in their community.” Now with his Building Africa’s Future Foundation, he is striving to sensitize parents to the importance of educating sons and daughters, and to create awareness that “disability is not inability”. Dreaming of becoming an aeronautical engineer, he affirmed that “everyone has a role to play in the implementation of the SDGs for this and the next generations. Nothing is impossible as long as we are committed and take action.”
Throughout the event, Ministers and education advocates took the floor to share experiences and put forward strategies to achieve SDG4, with emphasis on innovation, humanitarian situations, and education for global citizenship and sustainable development.
UNESCO’s leading role in coordination of SDG4 was recognized by the keynote speakers, with members of the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee participating in the event.
On the sidelines of the event, the Director-General met with Norway’s State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Laila Bokhari, Slovakia’s State Secretary, Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport Olga Nactmannova and UN Undersecretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo.