Opening Statement by UNESCO’s Assistant Director General for Education, Stefania Giannini to the 6th Session of the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee, 11 March 2019

Submitted by geraldine on Mon, 03/11/2019 - 20:45
Stefania Gianini Head of Education UNESCO

Ladies and gentlemen,

Colleagues, friends,

It is pleasure to welcome you to UNESCO today for this 6th meeting of the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee.

We are delighted to have new members on board for this session following the enlarged representation of Member States.

It is an honour to count you among us Madam Minister Maria Victoria Angulo Gonzalez of Colombia. Your participation in the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee is further evidence of the importance your country places on education as a force for inclusion, peace and reconciliation – usted es la bienvenida.

Let me just begin by reminding all present that this Committee is not only  unique within the Agenda 2030 universe as a whole, and more specifically, within the global education architecture. 

It has a critical role to play in ensuring the success of SDG4, and more widely, of all the Goals comprising this universal agenda.

It brings together all responsible constituencies around a shared commitment – to act together for the achievement of inclusive, equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all.

It is only through determined, cooperative and engaged mindsets that we will succeed in moving forwards, leveraging the knowledge, capacities and networks that each of you represents.

The Steering Committee has helped maintain the focus on SDG4 in the global push towards achieving Agenda 2030, not least through engagement at regional level and its contribution to the Global Education Meeting in Brussels in December.

Its role is ever more important this year, throughout which we have a series of major events, not least the High Level Political Forum in July and the SDG Summit in September.

This Committee has the strategic responsibility to positively influence and guide the implementation of SDG4 and the education-related targets in the 2030 Agenda, and must step up its efforts going forward.

The implementation of this Agenda is being challenged every day by the complex and unstable global environment in which we live.

Inequalities are weakening and polarizing our societies. Poverty and protracted crises are uprooting millions of lives. Technology is evolving at dizzying speed, with the digital revolution spurring as many scenarios of disruption as promise.

Just last week at UNESCO, we organized Mobile Learning Week and a global conference on the theme of artificial intelligence and sustainable development. We aimed to better understand the impact of this revolution and to set the foundations for a humanistic approach to it: one that benefits the marginalized and does not further widen the gender and knowledge gap.

Against such a challenging global backdrop, we must stay the course – with a vision, clear priorities and a map for action and change – for now and in the much longer term.

The global education community that we represent owns such assets.

At the Global Education Meeting in Brussels, we succeeded in adopting a Declaration that provides this direction.

It was not a straightforward exercise – every constituency, every Member State, has its priorities.

This is natural and healthy.

But the Brussels Declaration transcends geography and differences.

It takes forward the universal ambition of SDG4.

This is not a mere Declaration of intent. It is one that calls for collective action from all constituencies represented here today. Further, it is a document that is informed by consultations organized in all regions in 2018.

It reflects how the Education 2030 Agenda is taking root, nationally and regionally.

Based on an assessment of where we stand four years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, it maps out strategic areas where the world is falling short, without losing sight of the Goal’s comprehensive scope.

It affirms inclusion as the driving principle of all policies to fulfill the human right to education.

This means inclusive policies to tackle youth and adult illiteracy; to integrate migrants, refugees and displaced persons in education and training systems; to ensure that education continues in contexts of protracted crises and humanitarian emergencies.

It expresses commitment to gender-responsive systems that empower girls and women; to better support the world’s teachers; to ensure that education transmits the skills and mindsets to participate wisely in a globalizing, technology-rich world.

Finally, the Declaration calls for strengthened resource mobilization and increased international cooperation.

I insist on the Brussels Declaration as it provides the substance to speak with one voice in this decisive year for education.

On January 24, we marked the first International Day of Education, following the adoption of a UN General Assembly resolution in December spearheaded by Nigeria, now sponsored by more than 60 Member States.

In his message for this Day the UN Secretary General affirmed that “education is at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals, the engine for poverty eradication and a force for peace.” He called for “prioritizing education as a public good”.

Events on this Day, which I attended at UN Headquarters, focused on the urgency of commitment and action rather than on celebration.

As agreed by the Steering Committee, a Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning was launched on this occasion, to strengthen our voice in the highly competitive policy arena.

UNESCO, through the New York office is liaising closely with the Group of Friends, to identify opportunities for engagement and ensure harmonization with the work of this Committee.

The bottom line is this: we must continue hammering the evidence that education equals progress across the SDG spectrum.

This is simply because knowledge is the sine qua non condition for ending the injustice of poverty, making informed choices, achieving gender equality, protecting our planet’s finite resources, and much more.

This year, the 2019 High Level Political Forum provides a unique opportunity for the Steering Committee to highlight this centrality of education for "Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality" – the theme of this session.

This year’s in-depth review of SDG 4 is also, therefore,  a key moment for the Steering Committee to demonstrate its authority, to gain greater visibility and consolidate itself as the legitimate voice of the global education community.

The Steering Committee’s submission to the HLPF is well advanced, informed by the Brussels Declaration.

As required, it places focus on education’s impact on the other SDGs under review - reducing inequalities, climate action, decent work and, peace and justice.

Ensuring that this report’s messages are strategic and political is one of the main objectives of this meeting.

We must ensure that education receives strong recognition in the Political Declaration stemming from the SDG Summit.

We should seek also to hear education centrally reflected in the General Policy Debate at the UN General Assembly – in the statements of heads of state and government.

This calls more than ever for acting together, drawing on our respective strengths.

We have been witnessing the emergence of multiple, sometimes competing actors in the field of education.

Fragmentation can and will never be the solution.

To succeed over the next decade to 2030, we need coordinated and concerted efforts, drawing on the expertise of all actors involved, bringing all the stakeholders here on board.

As I said in Brussels, we have to bring the different pieces of the puzzle together.

At the same time we must be forward-looking in how to address today’s educational challenges – from marginalization to the learning crisis; from skills not only to be digitally literate but values to combat intolerance and build more sustainable and peaceful societies – this brings us back to the humanistic approach.

In short, not to lose sight that education itself has to transform to achieve SDG4.

This is why UNESCO is launching a global reflection on the future of education, taking forward the legacy of the Delors Report published more than 20 years ago now.

This will be an exercise in sounding out viewpoints from across society, to mobilize collective intelligence around education as a societal project.

Within UNESCO we are also leading a strategic transformation, to work in more agile ways, gearing up our action around girls’ and women’s education to advance gender equality, and inclusive education for people on the move, to counter forces of division and foster social cohesion.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This Committee exemplifies the spirit of inclusion and collaboration that we need to advance SDG4.

It constitutes our comparative advantage.

This unique body has matured over the years; we have strengthened our knowledge base, learned from each other, developed new statistical tools to measure progress.

Now this Committee must be used to its full potential, to drive in that leaving no one behind starts with education.  

Progress depends on the collective engagement of governments – the lead actors – together with multilateral institutions, civil society networks, teacher organizations, foundations, the private sector and youth.

This is how a genuine movement for education can be created and sustained.

Each of your Constituencies carries considerable influence.

I encourage you to speak up in the name of the Steering Committee to secure stronger political will and financing for education – this is a mandate that you have from the international community.

I am convinced that we share the commitment to succeed.

I count on your proactive support and look forward to these two days of intensive and certainly fruitful discussions.

Thank you very much for your attention.