21 September 2020

Deputy Secretary-General Spotlights Promise of Early Childhood Learning, Calls for Investment and Reimagined Education, at Virtual Event

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s video message at the event titled “Unlock Big Change:  Education — the Key to a Better Future”, held virtually today:

While you were not able to come in person to the United Nations for the seventy-fifth session of the General Assembly, we have brought some of the important discussions about global issues, including the Sustainable Development Goals, to you.  Thank you Theirworld and the Global Business Coalition for Education for hosting this event, and to Omnicom, our United Nations Common Ground partner for Sustainable Development Goal 4, for your ongoing support.

If we leave with one message, we have heard loud and clear that education is the key to a better future.  Education unlocks so many issues we care about — from climate change and economic recovery to peace, security, health and well-being.  It is great to have tools to help us make the case for education, bringing together the evidence that will allow us to “copy, paste and advocate”.

We must make the case to reimagine education and inspire action.  We have 10 years to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, and the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us even further off track.  But the path to recovery can be an opportunity to innovate and rapidly expand education and promote equity.  Indeed, some of the actions we have learned about today can transform our societies.

Starting with the early years, investing just 10 per cent of education funds to the youngest children on [early childhood education] can rapidly give every child the best start in life.  Less than 2 per cent of education budgets are allocated to early childhood education in low-income countries, so it is not surprising that four out of five children in those countries are denied the springboard of early education.  If we want to change this, then we must find ways to increase that figure to 10 per cent, and we need a similar shift in international assistance dedicated to education.

Supporting safe, inclusive schools for the most marginalized is similarly promising.  The recent tragedies in Lebanon and in the Moria camp in Greece underscore the need to keep education on the agenda for refugee and displaced children.  In our rapidly changing world, we also need to make sure education is relevant and that we prepare young people with the skills they need for the future of work.

And finally, we must prioritize and invest in education if we want to see better returns on society and economy.  Notwithstanding today’s financial downturn, it is time to increase investment in children.  We must sustain and increase domestic and international financing, attract corporate and philanthropic support and harness new mechanisms like the International Finance Facility for Education, to make our funding go further.

As advocates, Government officials, non-governmental organization representatives, youth campaigners, businesses, philanthropists and leaders in our communities, you are perfectly positioned to make the case and take up this challenge.  I hope you leave today inspired to speak up and act now for the millions in need of an education and for the next generation.

For information media. Not an official record.