Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to join you to discuss the key question of financing for education.
Education arms individuals with values, skills and knowledge that empower them to be agents for sustainable development. On January 24, the first International Day of Education, the Secretary-General reminded us unequivocally that “education is at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals and that we must do far more to advance Sustainable Development Goal 4 including by prioritizing education as a public good; supporting it with cooperation, partnerships and funding.”
Yet 263 million children are out of school, and 617 million children and adolescents lack even minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics. We must act urgently if we are to uphold our promise to leave no one behind.
Moreover, at a time of accelerating globalization, advancing climate change, labour market shifts and the widening impacts of new technologies, education itself needs to transform. Digital skills should be a much bigger part of curriculums than they are today. Teachers need to be more empowered and better equipped. Partnerships should be leveraged to better harness the power of new technologies in education.
We need to significantly step up investment in education that matches job markets and empowers people to meet the challenges of life in today’s world. Countries need to prioritize education for the full learning cycle, from a child’s early years through adulthood. The international community must help address national funding shortfalls, which are projected to rise to almost $40 billion annually by 2020 and $90 billion by 2030.
Domestic financing needs to increase, and be spent efficiently, effectively and equitably while encouraging donors’ commitment towards increased ODA. However, traditional Official Development Assistance for education has stagnated in real terms since 2010, and has declined in relative terms.
Supporting the investment in education would contribute to inclusive, equitable and sustainable growth that would boost domestic resources for financing and create the fiscal space needed to address national priorities for development.
In the long run, we must strive to close this gap through innovative mechanisms and by broadening the sources of funding, including by working together with new donors who are creating incentives linked to results on access, learning and skills. For example, the “Education Cannot Wait” initiative has delivered results for education in crisis settings.
I look forward to the operationalization of the International Finance Facility for Education, and trust that it will help us to deliver education in lower-middle income countries and uphold our commitment to equitable and inclusive quality education for all.
With the guarantee provided and the additional resources generated for education, the Facility can offer an additional solution to support lower-middle income countries.
As we move forward, careful analysis of the potential beneficiaries will be important to ensure that countries are supported with a mix of financing that does not place them at high risk of debt distress. Since lower-middle income countries vary greatly in their debt burden levels, each country should look at the effect of IFFEd-supported education loans on the debt sustainability in relation to their education financing needs. I am encouraged to note that the Facility’s design requires multilateral development banks to conduct just such an analysis.
More broadly, the Facility should be firmly anchored in a unified international financial architecture for education, alongside the Global Partnership for Education, the Education Cannot Wait fund and other initiatives. We cannot afford fragmentation.
The United Nations system, for its part, stands ready to support countries in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4 and in accessing financing for their education plans and systems.
The ambition of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and SDG4 requires transformations in how we work together and deliver. Key opportunities lie ahead in 2019 for a strong political mobilization to highlight the centrality of education for the 2030 Agenda. Member States and partners will gather in New York for an in-depth review of Sustainable Development Goal 4 at the upcoming High-level Political Forum in July, followed in September by the first four-year stocktaking exercise covering the entire SDG framework.
I look forward to working with you to make the International Finance Facility a reality, to close the funding gap and to reboot education.