7 July 2015

‘No More Powerful Force against Violent Extremism than a Girl with a Book,’ Secretary-General Says at Oslo Summit on Education for Development

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the Oslo Summit on Education for Development, today:

Thank you all for participating in this important Summit.  I especially thank the Norwegian Government for hosting.

We meet just six days before the International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa.  I also thank Norway for co-facilitating and leading the consultations on this major global milestone.

These two meetings are not just linked on the calendar.  We are here to secure commitments to deliver on the promises of the sustainable development agenda.

Education is essential to its vision of a life of dignity for all.  My Global Education First Initiative aims to advance that vision.  I thank Norway — and all the other countries that have supported this advocacy initiative.

I particularly welcome the announcement of the establishment of a commission on financing of global education, whose five convenors are Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway; President Michelle Bachelet of Chile; President Joko Widodo of Indonesia; President Peter Mutharika of Malawi; and the Director-General of UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization], Irina Bokova

The co-convenors have asked Gordon Brown, my Special Envoy for Global Education, to lead the commission.  I am delighted that he has accepted.  I will receive its report and act on its recommendations.

We are honoured to be joined by Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi.  The United Nations is proud of our long association with Mr. Satyarthi.  More than a decade ago, he told the United Nations General Assembly that “Freedom and learning are the birth rights of every human being.”  Today we pledge to heed that call.

Malala and her school friends embody the courage of girls resolved to claim their rights.  They are the world’s best answer to global threats.  There is no more powerful force against violent extremism than a girl with a book.  Millions of girls are forced into marriage and out of school.  Millions of children are taken from classrooms and put to work in fields and factories.  The fight for education demands a fight against child labour and child trafficking.

This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the United Nations.  The first woman ever to address the United Nations General Assembly was a teacher from Norway named Frieda Dalen.  She was courageous and strong.  During the occupation, she headed a secret society of teachers against the Nazis.  She was even thrown in jail.

When the war ended, Norway sent her to the brand new United Nations.  Her speech there was a ringing call to action.  She pointed out that women suffered and resisted during the war — and the world could not afford to leave them out of building peace.  This Norwegian teacher knew what Malala shows today — it takes courage to achieve justice.  And we will never achieve justice until women have equal rights.

I welcome this Summit’s focus on girls, on emergencies, on the quality of education, and on investments.  More than 6 million people asked for action on these issues when they signed the UpForSchool petition that I endorsed.  Progress on these issues will advance our global campaign for a better future.

Two months ago in May, partners from around the world joined their voices at the World Education Forum in the Republic of Korea.  Their Incheon Declaration offered a vision to transform lives through education.

It called for significant increases in financing.  And it pledged action to boost access, inclusion, equity, quality, gender equality and life-long learning.

I thank all of you who helped forge the Incheon Declaration.  I call on you to carry it forward here in Oslo.  And I count on you to push for a bold set of sustainable development goals to be adopted in New York this September.

To turn promises into action, we have to mobilize resources.

Official development assistance (ODA) is essential.  I thank donors for their invaluable contributions so far.  We need to increase funding to achieve universal education.  And at the same time, we need to improve the coordination of financing.

That is why I am pleased that a global commission on financing education has been launched.  I welcome its establishment and I look forward to reading its report.  The Commission should provide vital insights into the economic case for investment in education — and recommendations on how we can achieve our goals.

On my way over here, I was receiving reports about some of the very serious crises unfolding in our world.  We are dealing at this time with multiple complex emergencies — in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Libya, Democratic Republic of the Congo and beyond.  We are coping with the Ebola outbreak.  Climate change is driving extreme weather events.

The increase in emergencies and crises across the globe has left tens of millions of children and youth out of school.  That raises the stakes for a strong international response.  Right now, less than 2 per cent of humanitarian aid goes to education.  We have to do more to help children in crises.  I welcome any additional funding for education in emergencies.

I will never forget the Japanese students I met after the Fukushima disaster, or the girls in their rebuilt school in Gaza, or others in places where school is an island of peace in a sea of chaos.

Children and young people struggling in emergencies are more than victims — they are seeds of future progress.  Education is the soil to help them grow into global citizens who can contribute to our common future.

At the Partnerships Side Event yesterday, we talked about how technology can help close the gaps and boost equality.  Even more than digital skill, we need political will.

This Oslo Summit is a chance to reaffirm the human right to education.  It is an opportunity to mobilize political commitment.  And it is our moment to galvanize international support for education as the world prepares to adopt a new set of sustainable development goals to guide the struggle to achieve a life of dignity for all.

I often speak about my experience in wartime, when the food and books donated by the United Nations gave our shattered society hope.  I am deeply grateful for that assistance.  Without it, I would never be standing here.

At the same time, I prefer to talk about success stories now.  Malala is one.  It is a miracle she survived.  In her Nobel lecture, she said the award was for all those forgotten children who want education.

Let this Summit show we will never forget those children.  We will stand together so they can get the education they want and deserve.  This will open a better future for generations to come.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.