Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the high-level Sustainable Development Goals Action Event, in New York today:
In 2015, the world came together to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals — a truly ambitious agenda to shape a better, fairer and more peaceful world. A world that can only be shaped through quality and relevant education.
We know when we deliver education to a young person, we are not only delivering the knowledge and skills they will need to chart their own future — we are preparing them to lend their hands, their mind and their heart to shaping a more peaceful, prosperous future for their society, and indeed, for the world.
SDG [Sustainable Development Goal] 4 represents the world’s promise to deliver inclusive, quality and equitable education for all children, youth and adults, throughout their lives. While we are inspired by the progress of education for all, we must acknowledge the work that remains.
As we discuss today how to pursue the promise of SDG 4, I’d like to focus specifically on five interrelated areas — finance, innovation, girls’ education, life-long learning, and education in humanitarian contexts.
First, finance: Funding is currently insufficient for education in many of our developing countries, whether from domestic or external sources. Globally, we must work with Governments and donors to increase the funding dedicated to education around the world, and to develop new approaches that go beyond traditional official development assistance. That includes supporting the Global Partnership for Education, the Education Cannot Wait fund, and the proposed International Finance Facility for Education.
Domestically, we must underscore work with Governments to make sure that available financing for education is equitably targeted. It is estimated that the wealthiest children enjoy up to 18 times more public education financing than the poorest children. This injustice must be reversed.
Second, innovation: Specifically, we must develop new ways to deliver education to hard-to-reach children, no matter where they live. From establishing temporary learning spaces for children that are displaced by conflict, to using technology to remotely deliver education in hard-to-reach areas, we must identify, test, adapt and scale up innovative approaches to help the world’s poorest get the education that they deserve and they have a right to.
The third point is girls’ education, an unfinished progress: Despite progress, girls are still facing a range of barriers. From gender-based violence to schools that lack separate toilet facilities for girls, to the social and cultural norms that prevent girls from even attending school in the first place, to financial barriers forcing some families to educate their sons, but not their daughters.
Overcoming these barriers requires not just delivering quality pre-primary and primary education to girls, but quality secondary education, as well. After all, secondary education delivers the greatest benefits to young women — increasing their lifetime earnings, delaying motherhood and improving their health and the health of any children they might have in the future.
Unlocking these benefits requires focusing on those girls who are already in the school system, while also investing in those the system has long left behind — those who never went to school, those who dropped out after only a few years, or those who were not allowed to stay in school because they became pregnant.
Fourth, life-long learning, for life and for work: Over the next 10 years, 1 billion young people will enter the global workforce. They need the skills and competencies required to do not only the jobs that exist today, but the many jobs that haven’t yet been invented. This requires global attention and investment not only in basic literacy and numeracy, but in technical and vocational training, throughout people’s lives, particularly in the poorest countries.
Fifth, in all that we do, we must consider the needs of children trapped by humanitarian emergencies. Today, the world faces a worsening refugee crisis, with more displaced people than at any time in history; a full quarter of them are school-age children. This is not only a short-term challenge, but a challenge that goes directly to the heart of our long-term efforts to build a more peaceful, equal world.
We must also work with Governments and donors to build resilient and effective education systems and facilities over the long term. There is no better investment in the future peace and resilience of a society than in the education of its citizens.
Thank you for coming together to reinforce that crucial truth and to ensure that we make education a focus and priority in all we do to build a better future. I look forward to working with you, and with all Member States, in the time ahead to translate the promise of SDG 4 into a reality, and to give every person the opportunity to lend their hands, their hearts and their minds to shaping a better tomorrow.