Washington, DC

10 April 2014

Secretary-General's remarks at Learning for All Symposium: Investing in a Brighter Future [as prepared for delivery]

Colleagues and friends,

Thank you, President Kim and the World Bank, for organizing this symposium.

I am very pleased to take part in this excellent example of collaboration between the United Nations, the World Bank and the Global Partnership for Education.

Despite all the progress we have made, the world still faces a global learning crisis.
As we move closer to the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals and Education for All objectives, we must accelerate progress.

We must ensure that every child has the opportunity to receive a good quality education.
Access is essential, but so is quality.

Lack of quality education, of good teachers especially, and of school environments conducive to learning are among the main reasons why children are being pushed out of school.

This is especially so for girls. According to UNESCO’s latest Education for All Global Monitoring report, 100 million young women in low and lower middle income countries are unable to read a single sentence.

It is not enough for education to produce individuals who can read, write and count; education must be transformative, practical, and able to promote shared values.

This understanding is what drives the three priorities of the Global Education First Initiative.

We want all children to go to school, to learn and to become global citizens.

We must engage in the concrete actions needed to make these broad promises a reality for all children, especially the most marginalized.

Increased financing is crucial, at both the national and international levels. 

Domestic spending is by far the most important source of funding for basic education. More can and must be done by governments to increase such resources.

Donors, for their part, can bridge the gap when domestic resources are lacking by allocating a significant share of their overseas development aid to education.

However, between 2010 and 2011, international aid to basic education fell by 6 per cent. We must reverse this unacceptable trend, which imperils the development of our societies.

There is no greater return than investing in education.  I call on political leaders to show the leadership and foresight needed to reap the many benefits of a well-educated and highly-skilled population.

I also call for those investments to be targeted to countries most in need and the young people who are hardest to reach.

This includes children in fragile and conflict-affected states, girls, children with disabilities, children living in remote rural areas and those living in poverty.

I have seen, in my life, the difference education make.  With few resources beyond human ingenuity, the Republic Korea recovered from the war-time devastation and is now one of the world’s leading economies.  Other countries can walk a similar path.

In this spirit, I believe we need to firmly integrate quality, inclusive and equitable education and lifelong learning in the post 2015 sustainable development agenda.


I thank President Kim and the World Bank for their continued commitment in engaging with Ministers of Finance.

I am grateful to the Global Partnership in Education for its role in accelerating progress in the final push towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and Education for All Goals. I encourage robust support for the Partnership’s replenishment campaign.

Most especially, I thank the Champion Countries of the Global Education First Initiative for their leadership and engagement – the most recent of which are the United States and Ethiopia.

Let me thank also Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, for his efforts in accelerating education towards 2015 and in mobilizing a wide-range of partners in support of education for Syrian refugee children.

We have the knowledge, the technology and the partnership platforms we need to make progress. Let us now heighten our commitment and do what we know we must for the world’s children.

Thank you.