On 24 September, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama and world leaders pledged their commitment to raise the quality of education at an event held in the context of the 69th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
In an unprecedented show of support for education, 14 Heads of State/Government and Ministers from all regions of the world, UN principals and leading international advocates stood together to send the same message — that quality, lifelong learning is the key to building a more equitable, peaceful and sustainable world.
The First Lady of the United States of America made a powerful appeal for girl’s and women’s education as a force to change the world. For this, she underlined the importance of supporting girls making through primary to secondary education. Without this, Ms Obama said girls may be condemned to a “life of dependence, fear and abuse.” This requires, she said, new laws as well as shifts in cultural norms at the national level and a strong agenda the global level.
“We need to fight harder to ensure quality education for all is a dedicated goal in the post 2015 agenda,” she said.
To move forward, Ms Obama reminded all participants of the courage shown by millions of girls in such countries as Pakistan and Nigeria and across the world: “If we can show a fraction of their courage, then we can change the world.”
Irina Bokova made the stakes clear about the importance of education:
“This global learning crisis not only undermines social cohesion and threatens stability, it is a violation of basic human rights”, the Director-General told world leaders in her opening address.
“Education must come first, not just any education, but quality education; education to shape the world into a better place,” the Director-General said.
“The Global Education First Initiative is a call to action; to harness the transformative power of education, to eradicate poverty and hunger, to improve health and to protect our planet. We asserted this message at the Global Education Meeting in Oman this May, at the International Conference on Literacy in Bangladesh this month, and it was sent at the BRICS Summit in Brazil.”
There is strong international consensus that education must feature centrally in the post-2015 development agenda and will be critical to its success. This future agenda will be debated at this year’s UN General Assembly, and the global goal and target for education will be discussed further at the World Education Forum taking place in the Republic of Korea in May 2015.
The high-level event, ‘Quality Education for the World We Want’ was held in support of the Global Education First Initiative (GEFI), a global advocacy effort launched by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for which UNESCO provides the Secretariat. GEFI seeks to accelerate progress towards achieving universal access to basic education, improve the quality of learning and foster new forms of global citizenship.