Dear friends, let me begin by saluting this impressive coalition of global leaders and youth here today. Thank you for standing up for education.
We are also graced by the presence of the most world famous student. Welcome, Malala [Yousafzai] – our youngest UN Messenger of Peace.
My commitment to education runs deep. Long before I served at the United Nations or in politics in my own country, in Portugal, I started as a teacher.
I saw for myself decades ago in the schools and slums of Lisbon why education is a basic human right, a transformational force for poverty eradication, an engine for sustainability, and a force for peace.
Yet universal education is still a distant dream for so many around the world. More than 260 million children, adolescents and youth are out of school, and most of them are girls.
Let me point to four areas of focus where, together, I believe we must do more.
Above all, finance. Investing in education is the most cost effective way to drive economic development, improve skills and opportunities for young women and men, to unlock progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals and to prevent conflict and sustain peace.
We must work with governments and donors to increase education funding around the world, and to develop new approaches that go beyond Official Development Assistance.
Earlier this year, I conveyed to the G-20 the proposal of an International Finance Facility for Education. We are aiming to launch it next year through the Education Commission.
The Global Partnership for Education’s Financing Conference is our first opportunity to turn political commitment into tangible support. I have to say that, in the G-20 meeting, immediately after I spoke, I had enthusiastic support from the Prime Minister of Norway, who is sitting on our side.
Second — we must focus on girls.
Girls face a range of barriers from gender-based violence to schools that lack separate toilet facilities to the social and cultural norms that prevent girls from even attending school in some parts of the world.
Overcoming these challenges requires quality secondary education, as well.
Just 1 per cent of poor rural young women in low-income countries complete secondary school. Yet every year of secondary schooling a girl receives boosts her earning power by as much as 25 per cent.
Third — lifelong learning. Over the next ten years, one billion young people will enter the global workforce. They need the skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
We are witnessing the fourth industrial revolution. We are witnessing enormous progress, namely in artificial intelligence. Labour markets will be dramatically changed in the years to come. Not only labour markets – international relations and the fabric of societies. I don’t see governments and international organizations paying sufficient attention to this huge transformation that is coming. And we need to make sure that when we talk about education, when we talk about skills, when we talk about our policies, that we take into account not only what is happening today but what we now can foresee will happen, and will happen quite soon in the years to come.
Fourth — a focus on children and youth affected by conflict. Half of all refugee children are not in primary school, and only 75 per cent of adolescents are in secondary school.
There is an immediate need and a challenge that is crucial to building a more peaceful, equal world. All of this highlights the importance of the Education Cannot Wait Fund.
Mothers and fathers around the world would make any sacrifice for their children’s education.
Most of us in this room are fortunate. We may have the resources, the access and the privilege to help ensure the very best education for our families.
Let us commit as a family of nations to ensure quality education for all the world’s children.
Financing education is indeed the best investment we can make for a better world and a better future.
Thank you very much.