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Educating Children Now Will Pay Dividends for Generations, Secretary-General
Tells ‘Learning for All’ Ministerial Round Table
Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the “Learning for All” Ministerial Round Table in Washington, D.C., on 18 April:
I am pleased to join my two co-hosts, Special Envoy [Gordon] Brown and President [Jim Yong] Kim of the World Bank, in welcoming you to this Learning for All Ministerial Round Table. I thank you all for attending.
I am inspired by this unprecedented gathering. Here in this room we have Heads of Government, education ministers, finance ministers and development partners. Your presence sends a message about our strong resolve to make quality education a reality for all.
The eight developing countries represented here are home to nearly half the world’s out-of-school children and youth. Progress in your countries can tip the balance in reaching our global goals. We are here to identify concrete actions to ensure that all children and young people have access to school and quality learning by the year 2015. This is also the purpose of global Education First initiative, which I launched last September out of my deeply held faith in the power of education to transform our world.
Earlier this month, we marked 1,000 days until the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals. I took that opportunity to call someone who represents better than anyone why we need to reach these Goals. You all know Malala Yousafzai for her courage in the face of terrorism. I told her that she is also a daughter of the United Nations.
Malala told me she would work with the United Nations. She said, and I quote, “When we work together we can achieve our goal … peace [and] happiness in this world. And the only way to have peace in this world is education.”
These wise words come from a teenager who almost died fighting for her right to go to school. We are here for Malala and for the roughly 61 million children who are out of school. We are here for the hundreds of millions who do not have the right opportunities to learn. We are here to take action for a better world. Not with empty promises but with clear steps — to train teachers, build classrooms and help the disadvantaged.
Real progress depends on financial and political will — and actions. Here, I would like to emphasize the political vision of the leaders and finance ministers. After all, resources are limited. The key question is how and where to appropriate these limited resources. I stress that you should focus on education.
We live in difficult financial times. These times demand smart investments. And there is no more valuable investment than education. People ask me how the Republic of Korea became so strong in such a short period of time. I answer immediately: education. We knew to invest in the education of our people, and they paid us back with accelerated development.
The greatest return comes from investing in girls and women. When they are educated, they drive development in their families, communities and nations. We need to transform this understanding into results. Consultations with countries have already identified bottlenecks. Development partners are armed with ideas about supporting this effort.
Let us use this session to build on the productive meetings held earlier today and agree on concrete actions to reach our goals. If we can leave here today with plans in place, we can enrol half the world’s out-of-school population. This would be a tremendous accomplishment.
This meeting is a single but critical step in support of the objectives of the global Education First initiative: to provide a quality, inclusive and relevant education to all children. We have three priorities: that all children will go to school, all children will learn, and all children will become global citizens.
Today’s meetings should demonstrate ambition. We must prove that we can pool our resources and muster our will in the sure knowledge that educating children now will pay dividends to whole societies for generations to come.
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