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DSG/SM/1584
29 April 2021

11 Million Girls, Young Women Risk Missing Post-Pandemic Return to Education, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Virtual Commonwealth Learning Week

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s video message to the closing session of the Virtual Commonwealth Learning Week today:

The Right Honourable Patricia Scotland, Dr. Nabeel Goheer, colleagues and friends:

Thank you for inviting me to address the closing session of the Virtual Commonwealth Learning Week.  I congratulate the Commonwealth Secretary-General and the Secretariat for organizing this rich programme and for your commitment to transformational change.

I thank you for seeking synergies with the work of the United Nations, building on the strategic cooperation and delivery agreement we signed in 2019.  As we grapple with a multitude of crises, learning is crucial for ensuring that we get on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The pandemic has made that job more difficult than it already was.  One statistic alone captures this quite well.  Right now, around 11 million girls are at risk of not returning to education because of the pandemic.  That’s 11 million girls and young women who will miss out on the life opportunities that only education can provide.  Eleven million opportunities to push forward for gender equality.

I look back at my own life and know only too well that without education, so many doors would have been closed; so many chances to grow and to contribute would have been missed.  We must now allow this to come to pass.  Now is the time to truly scale our investment in education and in young people, and recovery from this pandemic provides us opportunities to do just that.

It has already accelerated some of the positive trends in digitalization, for instance, but more must be done to fully realize the benefits by overcoming digital divides and strengthening digital capacity.  Building on the UN Secretary-General’s Data Strategy, we must respond creatively to the opportunities data presents, while understanding and managing the risks.

Most Member States have adopted national sustainable development strategies and reported on progress through voluntary national reviews.  But monitoring and evaluation (M&E) needs to be better integrated in these processes.  By using data science and exploring new sources of data, we can strengthen M&E systems, fill data gaps and deliver more impactful services in inclusive and cost-effective ways.

Effective data governance is a critical component.  While there are regulations or guidelines in place that govern data, these instruments must be updated and strengthened to address data ethics and privacy.

As entities focused on multilateral, multi-stakeholder action and engagement, you are well placed to contribute.  The United Nations looks forward to enhanced partnership with the Commonwealth.  We can learn from each other and, together, support positive change to deliver on the 2030 Agenda.

Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.