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Education-related Sustainable Development Goals, Targets ‘Badly Off Track’, Deputy Secretary-General Tells High-level Political Forum

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the Economic and Social Council’s high-level political forum on sustainable development’s side event on education, in New York today:

Thank you for the invitation and for the opportunity to be with you here today.  Let me begin by thanking Commissioner [Jutta] Urpilainen for her personal commitment to education and for the continued commitment of the European Union to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda overall.

In the face of mounting global challenges and crises, the European Union and the United Nations have strengthened our cooperation at all levels, and it is only through such cooperation that we can move from crises to opportunity and rescue the Sustainable Development Goals.

We have said it time and again:  education is in crisis and the education-related goals and targets of the Sustainable Development Goals are badly off track.

The pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to the prospects of millions of learners worldwide and has further widened longstanding education deficits — affecting both equity and quality.  These deficits are the sharp end of a wider and deeper crisis that is affecting education systems in every country in the world — one that forces us to rethink the relevance and suitability of both what and how we learn today.

Last year’s report from the International Commission on the Futures of Education captured this crisis in succinct terms and challenged the international community to respond in a decisive manner.

In the Secretary-General’s Transforming Education Summit, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to do so.  The Summit is our chance to place education on the very top of the political agenda.  It is a chance to put forward a new vision for education that is aligned with the needs and opportunities of the twenty-first century.  And it is a chance to mobilize solutions, solidarity and a vibrant movement to turn that vision into reality.

In this endeavour, it is essential that we reframe the debate around education — placing universal access to lifelong learning at the core of a new social contract and the heart of any national vision for sustainable development.

We also need to reposition education spending as one of the smartest investments that any country can make for today and for the future.

And we need to generate a new level of mobilization from within an ever-changing education ecosystem — with young people, teachers, parents, civil society, the private sector and more uniting in common purpose.

Together with urgently needed transitions on food, energy and digitalization, the transformation of education offers us an entry point to reignite our efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda.  But this will only happen if the Summit in September must be followed by a new surge of action over the coming years in every country in the world.

This will not be easy.  This is not about doing more of the same even faster.  It is about supporting a new national vision for learning that looks far beyond the traditional education sector.

It will demand a new way of working on education both from Governments and from the international community.  And here, Member States can count on the United Nations development system — and in particular on our resident coordinator system — to maximize the contribution of leading agencies such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); to better leverage the capacities of other critical players from the International Labour Organization (ILO) to the International Trade Centre (ITU) and beyond; and to strengthen our engagement with the World Bank and other multilateral development banks.

High quality partnerships with development partners on the ground will also be essential.  And in this regard, we very much look forward to working with the European Union delegations in country, building on existing programmes that support youth skills and empowerment and leveraging the Global Gateway to catalyse greater domestic investment in that national vision.

We just came out of a very productive pre-summit in Paris where we clearly felt the appetite from all stakeholders, Member States and civic society alike, for real, transformative change of our education systems.

Over the coming two months we must do all we can to build on this momentum to deliver a Summit that ignites a new movement and a major push to transform education.

The European Union is playing a key role in our efforts, leading by example, especially when it comes to education financing.

We look forward to continuing this collaboration beyond September and, in particular, to ensuring that our collective efforts bear fruit where it matters most — in the minds and the futures of young people across the world.

For information media. Not an official record.