» Working together for people and planet: unleashing education’s transformative potential
24.09.2016 - ODG

Working together for people and planet: unleashing education’s transformative potential

UNESCO/Bob Kranser

“Education is the most important Sustainable Development Goal – without education we are not going to achieve any objective: peaceful societies, jobs, ending poverty, solving health problems.” Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Chair of the Global Education Monitoring Report Advisory Board, opened the 23 September 2016 high-level roundtable with a rallying cry. Hosted by UNESCO and the Government of France, the event in New York, held on the fringes of the 71st General Assembly, brought together Member States, along with some of the most influential voices from the sustainable development and education communities, to discuss the key recommendations from the 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report Education for people and planet: Creating sustainable futures for all.

The interventions highlighted the urgent need to change our approach. At current rates, the GEM Report estimates that 7 in 10 young people in low-income countries will not complete secondary school in 2030, business as usual is unacceptable, but ensuring even modest progress in education will have significant benefits across other sectors.

“Education stands at the heart of the new global agenda as a human right, as a force for transformation – for green economies, for green societies, for gender equality, and as the best prevention of violence extremism,” said UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova.

Many of the speakers at today’s event also highlighted the need for education itself to transform, and to expand its focus in order to meet the challenges of our collective future. UN Special Envoy for Global Education Opportunity, Gordon Brown, talked about the urgent need to provide children and young people in emergencies and conflict with better education and learning opportunities, and the risked loss of potential of “millions of people who need to be equipped for a completely different labour market.”

But education needs to impart more than professional skills and knowledge, quality education must include learning positive values, education can shape attitudes and behaviors. UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, Forest Whitaker, spoke of the need to reach the most marginalized: “without education there is no path leading towards inclusion. Without education we cannot hope to become global citizens who embrace others, no matter how different they are from us. Education is the foundation of peace and global consciousness, and we have to look at the deep connections between learning and peace.”

The GEM Report found that effectively designed civic, peace and sustainability education programmes can ensure more equitable justice systems and help to prevent violence. One of the report’s many recommendations is that education be better integrated into peacebuilding agendas - of the 37 publicly available full peace agreements signed between 1989 and 2005, 11 do not mention education at all.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is ambitious, and an intersectoral, collaborative approach is vital. Deputy Minister of Norway, Tone Skogen, highlighted the importance of monitoring progress in order to work better together, “the GEM Report plays a critical role in highlighting education's role in reaching other SDGs and is relevant for an audience way beyond the education community.” The GEM Report shows that investments in integrated interventions have a multiplier effect across many development outcomes – from health and women’s empowerment, to peace and climate change mitigation.

“The SDGs are our collective plan for the future of the world's people and its planet. There is no other plan. And there's no spare planet.” David Nabarro, Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda concluded the event. “You can't achieve the SDGs if you don't discover how to partner. You can't do the SDGs if you organise government rigidly into line ministries, or your development ministries rigidly into separate departments, or your students to specialise into specific areas and discourage from thinking across disciplines, and discovering the joy of what happens at the interfaces between them.”

This high-level roundtable discussion was an opportunity for the findings and recommendations of the 2016 GEM Report to be shared with key audiences who are at the forefront of SDG implementation, and to reaffirm the importance of working together with a broad range of partners to ensure a sustainable, peaceful and equitable future for all.

Video of the roundtable

Website of the Global Education Monitoring Report

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