Washington, DC

10 April 2014

Secretary-General's remarks on the launch of the Emergency Coalition for Education Action

Thank you, Special Envoy Gordon Brown. Thank you for your passionate leadership.
It is always a disadvantage for me to speak after him. Because his speeches are so eloquent, so powerful, so passionate – I am very glad that he is working as United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, because he can deliver in a much more eloquent and better way than I would, and I really thank you for such strong engagement and support.
Madam Sarah Brown – you know about their relationship - she is even more committed. She started first, in fact. We should give her recognition. Thank you very much.
I would like to welcome all these youth ambassadors for education, and particularly Shazia [Ramzan] and Kainat [Riaz] for your courageous commitment in education.
I visited Pakistan and I met, of course, Malala [Yousafzai]. At the United Nations, we designated July 12th as United Nations Malala Day. We celebrated the first Malala Day last year. It was quite inspiring.
It is not always professors or statesmen from whom we get inspiration. We receive good inspiration from young people like Malala and Shazia and Kainat, and many other young people.
I am also very happy to be here with Mr. Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank, and my own Special Envoy for Youth, Ahmed Alhendawi. He is a young man – a 29-year-old. I appointed him for the first time in the history of the United Nations, knowing that we must do something for youth. That is why I appointed him. He is the youngest but highest ranking Special Envoy in the United Nations system.
It is a great pleasure and honour for me to start my two-day visit and participation in the annual World Bank and IMF Finance Ministers meetings by starting with this education event.
I would like to thank all of your people - young people, social justice activists, business and faith leaders, NGOs, UN agencies and campaigners.  You are here to help ensure that every child enjoys his or her right to education -- and I am pleased to stand with all of you in working towards that goal.
I am especially grateful for the leadership of my Special Envoy for Global Education – Gordon Brown.  Thank you again for your unwavering commitment to the rights and well-being of children everywhere. You are the real true supporters. We need your strong engagement. It is not me or Gordon Brown alone who can do this job. It is only possible with your strong engagement and support.
Today we launch the Emergency Coalition for Global Education Action – a group of prominent leaders who are coming together to work even harder to accelerate progress until the end of 2015 – next year - to ensure that all girls and boys are in school.
My greatest thanks and admiration today go to two of the many courageous young women who are here today. They were shot by the Taliban along with Malala in 2012. Both girls have miraculously recovered and we are grateful for your courage. It is a triumph to have them here with us today, joining our campaign.
We are also joined by members of the United Nations Youth Advocacy Group – they represent many different countries, but they represent our future. They are the leaders of our world. Often people say that ‘you are the leaders of tomorrow’. But they have already started their leadership today.
This is a co-leadership; a co-habitation. We will give our torch to you soon… 
But let me finish my job.
Please come with us. You are the leaders of tomorrow. Be proud of what you are doing now.
You may know that, in this world, half of the global population is under the age of 25. In a sense, this world is very young. By 2040 or 2050 the age group will be more. There will be more people over the age of 60, because of our longevity. But at this time, half the world population is under the age of 25. This is a very young world.
For many, there are no opportunities beyond primary education.  Particularly when it comes to displaced people and in conflict zones, forty percent of young people are not educated. For all too many, when violence erupts, their futures are placed on hold for extended periods.
That is why we need to give priority to learning opportunities for young people, including refugees and internally displaced persons who are not receiving education or training.
Just three days ago, I was in the Central African Republic, and I met thousands of displaced people – young people. They were accommodated in a fenced area. They were following me, running and reaching out to me. Of course their first priority would be to eat something and to find some place to sleep. But I was afraid that all these people would be out of school. There are no schools, no teachers, in the Central African Republic. I am going to mobilize all the United Nations can do to help this country.
Too many children around the world are kept out of school because of child labour, child marriage and sexual and gender based violence. Moreover, entrenched poverty and lack of security often turn schools and neighbourhoods into places of vulnerability and brutality, instead of opportunity and vitality.
No girl should be enslaved instead of being in school. No child should be married instead of being in school. No child should be denied an education because his or her country is at war.  No child should be targeted for violence because she or he wants to exercise the fundamental right to education.
You may remember that when Malala came to the United Nations she said that what the Taliban fears most – what terrorists fear most - is not guns, it is not weapons. When girls are reading books, when girls are educated, that is what the Taliban fears most. That was a powerful, powerful message.
Girls should be educated.
Together, we can change this.
Your sessions today will help frame the 500-Day Countdown and build momentum.
As many of you know, for me the fight for education is deeply personal.
I was six years old when the Korean war broke out, and for three years after that Korea was devastated - everything became ashes. So we started from ashes. So it was natural that we had no classrooms. We had to study in the open air. When it rained – no class. When it was too cold – no class. We liked no class, at that time!
When you go to UNESCO headquarters in Paris, you will see the text books which I used to study from, along with students my age - printed and supported by UNICEF and UNDP – on display.  We were given all this support by the United Nations. At the end of the book in the last page there is one column printed: ‘This book was printed by UNESCO.”
So we studied hard. This was the way we gave back to the United Nations.
Years later, I introduced this story in Seoul. Our UNESCO people searched the old book shops.  After searching many bookstores, they found some old text books. I was told that one copy cost $40 – quite expensive - for low quality paper. But it gave us a great opportunity to learn. We studied hard, and South Korea has become almost the 15th largest economy in the world. I am very proud of that. I want to see this kind of experience as a beacon of hope to many people. So I try to explain my experience to many young people around the world.
It was with this in mind that I created the Global Education First Initiative in September 2012, with three priorities:
First, to put every child in school.
Second, to improve the quality of learning.
Third, to foster global citizenship.
This morning and throughout the day, you will all hear a very powerful call to action from the Special Envoy for Global Education.
He and I -- and I know all of you -- want to see more action, more funding and many millions more children in school.
I wish you every success for the important campaign that lies ahead. Let’s work together to make this world better, particularly for our leaders of our future.
Thank you very much for your commitment.