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On 6-7 July 2015, the Government of Norway in cooperation with the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown hosted the Oslo Summit on Education for Development “Addressing the Unfinished Agenda – Delivering Quality Education for All”. High level country representatives, multilateral organisations, civil society, the private sector, foundations and academia took part in the conference to mobilise a renewed political commitment to reach the 58 million children who are still being denied their right to education, and to improve learning outcomes for children and youth. As we approach the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the adoption of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, the conference represented an important appointment to provide input to the third International Conference on Financing for Development in Ethiopia in July, as well as the United Nations Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda in September.
As summarised in the Concept Paper, four thematic areas were explored during the Summit:
Investment in education: increased external support and domestic resource mobilisation for education, for efficient and results oriented progress towards universal education.
Girls’ education: increased and targeted support for enrolment in secondary and higher education, with a particular focus on the links between health and education.
Education in emergencies: increased and targeted humanitarian and post-crisis support for education, with a particular focus on marginalised groups.
Quality of learning: increased and targeted support for more and better qualified teachers, improved learning materials, use of innovation and technology, and skills tailored for labour market demands.
A joint statement by 27 world leading NGOs and campaign organisations – including A World at School, Oxfam, Save the Children, World Vision, Action Aid and Plan International – called for the creation of a Global Humanitarian Fund and Platform for Education in Emergencies. During the Summit, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides announced his willingness to dedicate 4% of the EU humanitarian aid budget to education for children in emergency situations.
Malala Yousafzai, the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, stressed in her speech the need to ensure 12 years of quality and free primary and secondary education for every child. According to the Education For All Global Monitoring Report, an annual investment of $39 billion is needed to achieve this goal. While this may look like a huge budget, $39 billion is what world governments spend on their militaries in eight days.
Commenting on these numbers, Malala stated: “Books are a better investment in our future than bullets. Books, not bullets, will pave the path towards peace and prosperity.”
Malala further added: “World leaders need to think of the rest of the world’s children as their own children. No world leader would want his or her child to be deprived of education, or not to have health facilities, or want their children to become victims of war. Now, the world needs a change.”
The Oslo Declaration issued at the end of the Summit underlines the need to review political priorities, mobilise more domestic public and private funding, use existing resources more effectively and transparently, establish new and innovative partnerships, and implement evidence-based, inclusive and effective education policies. During the Summit, a high-level Commission on the Financing of Global Education Opportunities was announced to explore new investment opportunities to sustain and reinforce the education sector.
A special focus was dedicated to the need to bridge the divide between humanitarian interventions and long-term development assistance to education, and to mobilise $4.8 billion to provide children and young people in crisis situations with quality education. Additionally, girls’ education and the need for gender-sensitive education policies, learning environments and curricula were recognised as fundamental priorities, along with the need to address the shortage of qualified teachers, and the possibility to develop international guidelines for professional teaching standards and teacher competences.
In a statement published on July 7, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Ban Ki-moon welcomed the outcomes of the Oslo Summit on Education for Development as an important step towards the implementation of the post-2015 agenda.
Andrea Pregel is an inclusion professional with experience in disability, development, education, gender and health across Europe and Asia. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Social Research from the University of Turin (Italy), and an Erasmus Mundus MA/Mgr in Special and Inclusive Education from the University of Roehampton in London (UK), the University of Oslo (Norway) and Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic). He is Co-founder and President of the Global Observatory for Inclusion (GLOBI), and works as Programme Advisor for Social Inclusion and Disability at Sightsavers International.