Education for All Steering Committee Meeting

UNESCO – Paris, 21 November 2012

Madam Director General of UNESCO,

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen

May Peace be upon you…

First of all, I would like to thank you for your invitation to join you here today for this first Global Education Meeting on Education for All. I am honoured to be with you today - as always - as we jointly strive to provide Education for All.

Education is a fundamental right - a right that no one should be deprived of, under any circumstance.

Primary education in particular, is the foundation of an individual’s opportunities and future. That is why I have focused on primary education in so much of my work over the last years.

The world will not enjoy progress, stability, or peace and we will not see sustainable development or humanitarian justice triumph, if the path to education is blocked anywhere on the planet. If any child is prevented from going to school or from completing her education.

Yet, our task goes beyond merely providing access to education.

Humanity will not overcome the immense challenges we face unless we ensure that children get the quality education that equips them to play their part in the modern world.

I warmly welcome this meeting here today, as part of our response and efforts to meet this challenge.

I believe, and I trust many of you will agree, that we are now working with greater determination than ever before. With greater energy, spirit and professionalism to provide education for all.

The second half of 2012 has seen a number of events and actions which have helped reignite passion to live up to our promises to education. This can be seen through a number of recent events and actions. Today’s meeting represents the next fundamentally important step in this drive.

In September of this year, I joined the Secretary General of the United Nations in New York, in my capacity as a member of the UN Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group, in launching the Education First Initiative. This Initiative aims to put every child in school, improve the quality of learning, and foster global citizenship.

At the same time, Qatar’s three-year old initiative “Education Above All” recently published an important legal handbook which explores in detail the right to education and the protection of students, teachers and educational facilities during insecurity and armed conflict. This builds on our global advocacy work to protect education during conflict, including through supporting the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1998 (passed in 2011) which further enhances protection of schools against violent attacks.

Yet, even today, events happening right now in my region clearly show that the right to education is still endangered. That school buildings are still under threat. Just look at the situation of students in the Gaza Strip, in Syria and in similar conflict areas. Education is not being protected from the wider issues affecting a country or a society.

In Gaza at the moment, education has come to a standstill. Going to school is impossible during the shelling. And both inside Syria and in the refugee camps for Syrians, education is being disrupted. Destroying education in a conflict zone destroys a society’s chances of recovery as the loss of education means the loss of a future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last week, in the presence of the Director-General of UNESCO, Doha was the site of the launch of my new global education initiative: “Educate A Child”. This programme is designed to change the lives of millions of children, by providing them access to quality primary education in the coming years. We are concentrating on the forgotten generation, those children who are the hardest to reach, in the most difficult circumstances.

This ambitious programme is helping to achieve the goals of the Education First Initiative and reflects our ongoing commitment to the Second Millennium Development Goal.

Working with partners through innovation and scale, we seek to reach the millions of children who, because of poverty, conflict or disaster, are denied a quality primary education.

In less than four months, Educate a Child has already received the support of 20 partners, including UNESCO. The initiative currently covers 15 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and we are keen to see this number grow through these partnerships to reduce the number of children who are out of school.

Yes… as you can see, over the last few months we have discovered a new energy.

Today, I call on you to make use of this energy, which springs from a common will.

I am hopeful that you will increase your efforts to meet our commitments. I urge you to use the discussion of the coming days to focus on accelerated actions that will enable us to meet our goals.

No longer can we make warm proclamations about our feelings or intentions. Now we need to make a commitment to deeds.


We must stop delivering only words and start delivering action. We must together, through cooperation and coordination, achieve solutions. If we do not act now. If we do not fulfill our duty as leaders, as human beings, we will lose a generation of promising artists and writers. Scientists and athletes. Teachers and leaders…

Ladies and Gentlemen

We, international partners, governments and civil society, cannot turn our backs on the promise that we have made, through the Education for All programme, and the Millennium Development Goals - to make education a universal right by 2015. The challenges to Education for All are still great… and we will not overcome them without even greater ambition and efforts.

Let us not be overly focused on setting strict deadlines. But rather on the credibility of the enterprise, the seriousness of the work, and the continuity of efforts.

We must use our renewed energy to fulfil our duty. We have the opportunity in our hands over these next two days. Let’s stand up for our commitment and think of those children to whom we made a promise. Shame on us if we do not do it!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As an expression of my commitment to build on the new spirit that dominated 2012. To cement the sense of duty. To further our opportunities to make a better future for education and our world… I invite you to Doha in April 2013 for our next meeting. To share progress in reaching those children who are not in school. To come with specific plans that show how seriously we are taking our promises and that show the outcomes of this important Paris meeting. I invite you to demonstrate that we are living up to our promise in concrete and practical ways.

You, education leaders from around the world, hold this opportunity in your hands.

I wish you every success in this meeting. I sincerely hope and trust that it accomplishes sound results.

Thank you for your attention.