The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights conventions, state that the opportunity to receive a meaningful education is a fundamental human right for all children, youth and adults. But the world is systematically failing to address extreme and persistent education disadvantages that leave large sections of society marginalized. Some 72 million children were out of school in 2007 (54 per cent of them girls) and about 759 million adults (two-thirds of them women) lacked basic literacy skills. Global challenges, notably the recent financial and economic crises, put education at risk and disproportionally impact the poor, with serious implications for marginalized populations. Failure to place inclusive education at the heart of the EFA agenda is holding back progress towards the EFA and Millennium Development Goals. Fair and inclusive education is one of the most powerful levers available for offsetting social disadvantage, creating a virtuous circle of opportunity, and making societies more equitable, innovative and democratic.