World Must ‘Focus on What Matters Most - Putting Education Front and Centre’, Says Deputy Secretary-General, at European Union Global Gateway Event

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks on the occasion of the European Union high-level event on education, in Brussels today:

It is my pleasure to be with you today, and to see so many friends and colleagues who have been on this journey for many years.

Let me begin by thanking the Government of Belgium and the European Commission for bringing us together today and for providing such strong support for education and multilateralism in recent years.

I also want to personally thank my dear friend Jutta [Urpilainen] for everything she has done for education these past six years.  Your tenure and leadership as Commissioner has seen education spending in your portfolio almost double.  It has seen education firmly established as a central pillar of the European Union’s Global Gateway.  And it has seen the Commission get fully behind the push for education transformation.

At a time of competing priorities, immense geopolitical tensions and fraying trust, it’s essential that we focus on what matters most. Putting education front and centre, and that is precisely what you have done, Commissioner, and I salute you for these efforts.

I want to begin with Gaza, where the light of education has been extinguished for children.  It is essential to light that candle again for those children and for all children in crisis settings across the world.

I venture to say that there are three core beliefs that unite everyone in this room.

First, the belief that education is a fundamental human right and that investing in education is the greatest investment we can make in our common future — in peace, sustainable development and gender equality.

Second, the belief that contemporary education systems the world over are beset by profound challenges — of access and equity, of relevance and quality, and of ensuring that the digital era does not result in leaving billions of people behind and creating a digital chasm.

And third, the belief that to bridge the gap between ambition and reality, we must break out of our orthodoxies around education and its financing, and mobilize a new, broad-based coalition across sectors, actors and levels.

That was very much the spirit of the Transforming Education Summit (TES), convened by the Secretary-General in September 2022.  And the recent work of the High-level Panel on the Teaching Profession.

And as we approach the Summit’s two-year anniversary, a series of meetings will seek to determine if that spirit has been maintained with sufficient momentum to translate ambitious commitments into concrete action.

We will begin on 17 June, as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 High-level Steering Committee convenes a crucial TES stocktake in Paris to review progress made since 2022 across all five deliverables and enablers of TES follow-up.

In mid-July, the Secretary-General will organize a special meeting on transforming education to bring the outcomes of the Paris stocktake to the UN General Assembly and help position education at the heart of major global processes taking place over the next two years.

Then in September we will come together for the all-important Summit of the Future where it is essential that we see two specific outcomes for education:

First, we need a clear recognition from world leaders of the urgent need to transform and invest in education as a global imperative.

Second, we need major breakthroughs on issues that are critical for education, including reform of the international financial architecture, strengthened digital cooperation and a new agenda for peace.

Finally, in November, UNESCO will convene the entire education family for a major global education meeting in Brazil.

Taking place alongside the G20, this meeting can inform the discourse on inequality in the G20, take forward the outcomes from the Summit of the Future and ensure that education is at the core of preparations for the 2025 World Social Summit and Financing for Development Conference.  And it can also deliver a clear plan of action to accelerate and keep the promise of SDG 4 between now and 2030.

What should this acceleration focus on?

Three words:  Implementation.  Implementation.  Implementation.

In recent years, we’ve seen great emphasis on why and how to transform education, including a far-reaching vision statement from the Secretary-General.

We’ve seen 143 countries outline commitments to transformation.

We’ve seen a series of coalitions emerge on crucial issues — from foundational learning, to girls’ education; school feeding to education in emergencies — all in the aspiration of achieving lifelong learning for all.

We’ve seen much greater willingness to harness the power of the digital revolution for better access, better teaching and better skills and learning outcomes.  This includes the work of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and partners on the Giga initiative.

We’ve seen greater recognition of the need to rethink how we equip workers with the skills needed to drive major SDG transitions on digital, energy and food.

We’ve seen concrete, groundbreaking momentum and recommendations emerge from the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on the Teaching Profession building on the work on the Global Teachers Taskforce, together with a major programme of support for teachers in sub-Saharan Africa, under the European Union Global Gateway.

We’ve also seen a strong push to shift mindsets around education financing and new ideas from the Global Partnership for Education and others to mobilize greater investment in education in innovative ways.

And finally, we’ve seen young people work to grow the education movement and influence education policy, including through the TES Youth Declaration and the Africa Youth Manifesto on Education.

2024 is the time to ask ourselves whether or not these efforts are meeting the growing demand for transformation.

And if not, we must identify precisely what we need to do better.

Whether that’s breaking down the silos within the education sector and across other sectors.

Or rethinking how we, in the international community, support developing country Governments at the national level.

Whether it’s finding better ways to meaningfully support teachers.

Or more effectively tackling the global policies and constraints that are preventing Governments from investing more in education and social development.

These are among the critical issues that must be addressed through the key education meetings this year and it is deeply encouraging to see these issues at the heart of today’s programme.

As we move forward from Brussels to Paris, New York to Fortaleza, let’s continue to embrace the spirit of transformation that is so critical to achieving SDG 4.

Let’s dedicate ourselves to doing whatever is needed to make a difference where it matters most — in the experience of learners throughout their lives, in classrooms and in schools, virtual or otherwise.

And let’s work together, across the United Nations family, the European Union Global Gateway, and all of our education partners to get behind national leadership.

I know we can make 2024 a turning point for education.  So as the Commissioner would say:  Let’s get to it.

For information media. Not an official record.