Global Education First Initiative High-level Event

New York, 24 September 2014

Good afternoon.

I would like to start by asking a question: If we have not managed to achieve universal primary education over the last 15 years, what makes us think that we will do so in the next 15 years?

As we look ahead to the future development goals, have we really reflected enough on where we failed? Until we do, we will not reach our goals. And yet I believe that the steps needed are clear and achievable.

We need you as political leaders to see the potential in primary education. We need the global community to understand that basic education is not only the responsibility of governments. We need to change the myopic narrative that investments in education require years to yield returns.

This is not true – results can be seen immediately. UNESCO estimates that each additional year of schooling raises a country’s annual GDP growth by 0.37%. But – equally – these results can be destroyed in minutes before our very eyes.

Just look at the hundreds of schools destroyed in Gaza this summer. Look at Syria, where 2.8 million children are now out of school.

We need to make schools safe havens – with strong international legal mechanisms to protect schools in conflict. And sanctions to hold those who attack schools to account. I believe that until we do this, we will not meet MDG 2 by 2015, or even by 2030.

If we fail to educate children in conflict zones today, we may meet them again later as hopeless adherents of violent ideologies. As we are learning now, the cost of dealing with them later on is billions.

So, now let us get back to finishing the agenda of universal primary education. Now that we are preparing the post-2015 goals, it is time to set realistic targets. And keep the priority on universal primary education up to and beyond next year.

Programmes such as Educate A Child and our many valued partners are showing it is possible. With limited resources, we have been able to commit support to 2.5 million children, in 33 countries, in less than two years. The possibilities are endless…

But we cannot do this alone. That is why we are building strong alliances with like-minded partners. Education is a universal goal, and a universal responsibility that requires universal solutions. Reaching MDG2 is not rocket science. In fact, it is simple maths:

Our partner, the GPE, estimates that with 3.5 billion dollars over the next three years, we could support the schooling costs of 29 million children. With these funding levels, increased domestic commitments, wise use of resources and of course, better protection of schools – universal primary education could be achievable in six years, by 2021.

So what are we waiting for?

Thank you.