Education for All: Keeping the promises

As many as 70 million children are denied a place at school said former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the high-level meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Geneva. Focusing on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the commitment they make to education, Mr. Brown stressed that the international community had not fulfilled this pledge.

“In the four-and-a-half years to December 2015, we have to show that we can keep promises, we have to show that we can renew the dream of Education for All, and we have to show that we can build the trust that is necessary between rich and poor countries,” Mr. Brown said.

The failure to afford opportunities to a growing number of the world’s youth is “breaking the trust we asked them to place in us. We are demonstrating that we cannot be relied upon to honour our word.” The uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, were, Mr. Brown observed, perhaps the beginning of a “wider generational battle for justice for the world’s young people”.

“There is no scientific or technological, or technical or physical barrier to Education for All. There is nothing that prevents us being able to achieve this other than political will and making the resources available,” he said.

Echoing Mr. Brown’s call, Mr. Lazarous Kapambwe, the President of ECOSOC, speaking on South-South News, said “if the international community had fulfilled its pledges, today we would be on course, in many countries, to attain the MDGs by 2015”. Mr. Kapambwe also argued that innovative strategies are needed to invigorate the push for change. Business leaders, for example, will be asked to contribute more to education.

Improving the situation is not, therefore, out of our reach. Sufficient funding would amount to no more than five cents a week per child, a very small price to pay “relative to the huge human and social cost of not investing in the next generation,” as Mr. Brown stressed. As we move closer to 2015, the challenges posed by the Millennium Development Goals will no doubt result in many more significant moments and decisions.

The 2011 ECOSOC session has been retransmitted live and is now available on UN webcast. It was also broadcasted on the ECOSOC Facebook page.

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