The UN Secretary General’s

Global Education First Initiative (GEFI)

2012 – 2016

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a world where all children can go to school and progress to higher education; where they acquire literacy, numeracy and critical-thinking skills to help them succeed in life and live as

active global citizens

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"Education First" is the vision of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In 2012, he launched the Global Education First Initiative.


Read about GEFI here.



To fulfill the promise of the Initiative, the UN Secretary-General lends his convening power, supported by his Special Envoy for Global Education and other UN agencies, to leverage the expertise and experience of all partners.


Knowing there is no substitute for national political leadership, policy and resources, the UN Secretary-General invites a number of governments to become Champion Countries for the initiative. These countries commit to leading by example and advocating for GEFI’s priorities.





(hover over a flag to reveal the name of the country)





August 2012

Steering Committee Convenes


GEFI’s high-level decision making body, the Steering Committee, convenes for the first time in New York, laying out the strategic direction of the Initiative. The UN Secretary-General appoints UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, as Executive Secretary of the GEFI Steering Committee.


GEFI Steering Committee Members agree to rally a broad spectrum of actors for the final push to 2015, to spur a movement to put quality, relevant and transformative education at the heart of global agendas, and to generate additional and sufficient funding for education through sustained advocacy.  The Steering Committee members meet annually; April 2013 in Washington D.C., May 2014 in Rome and April 2015 in Paris.

August 2012

September 2012


GEFI Launch Event


The Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) is launched September 26 at UN Headquarters in New York by the UN Secretary-General; GEFI will re-energize the global community to deliver on the promise of universal education, and lay the groundwork for a bold vision for education post-2015. To achieve this, GEFI focuses on three priority areas:




September 2012


Education Cannot Wait


The Education Cannot Wait initiative

is launched and debated during the

UN General Assembly to stress that children need education not 'just' in emergencies - but 'especially' in emergencies. More than 34 million

out of school children and adolescents live in conflict-affected countries,

and millions are forced out of school by natural disasters each year. GEFI makes access to quality education during humanitarian crises a firm priority.


November 2012


Educate A Child (EAC) launched


Educate A Child (EAC) is launched by Her Highness Sheikha Moza of Qatar. EAC will give new impetus to the achievement of universal education – the first pillar of GEFI – as it aims to deliver quality education to millions of out of school children.


At the request of the UN Secretary-General, each commits to galvanize support and visibility for the Initiative.




New Champion COUNTRIES Join GEFI

April 2013

June 2013

Learning For All


With fewer than 1,000 days to go to the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All goals, a series of Learning for All events are held at the World Bank in Washington D.C. to build stronger momentum and renewed commitments for education.


The week of events  bring together a broad spectrum of partners and stakeholders, including ministers of education and finance. These events culminate in the Learning for All Ministerial on 18 April.

The Global Learning Crisis Continues


An estimated 250 million children are not able to read, write or count. If GEFI and the global education community does not act, educational disparities will increase within and between countries. UNESCO and GEFI Champion Country, Denmark, bring together international leaders and education experts to discuss this global learning crisis and its implications for development at the UN.

July 2013


Malala Day and Youth Takeover


Malala Yousafzai, the young activist from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban for advocating for girls' rights to education, makes her first public speech at the UN.


This results in the first ever Youth Takeover of the UN. The GEFI YAG joins 500 other young people to urge world leaders to ensure the right to education and presents a Call to Action to the UN Member States.


Youth Call to Action







September 2013


High Level Event - Delivering on the Global Education Promise


GEFI demands world leaders to break the cycle of poverty and improve the lives of people by Delivering on the Global Education Promise at its one-year anniversary event during the UN General Assembly in New York.


GEFI representatives call for bold leadership and coordinated finance to help end poverty and hunger, empower women, save children and mothers from unnecessary deaths, and improve the ability to live in harmony with the environment.

October 2013


Business Engages in Education


Recognizing that the private sector

has a critical role to play in global education, UNESCO, UNICEF, the UN Global Compact and the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, launch the Framework for Business Engagement in Education in support of GEFI.


The Framework is an essential resource for companies to understand the benefits of advancing education goals and provides guidance on how to align business with education priorities.


Governments must remove the barriers that keep disadvantaged children out of school or prevent them from learning well when in school. In an attempt to accelerate the rate of progress towards universal education, the UN Secretary-General invites five additional governments to become Champion Countries for GEFI.







April 2014


Youth Advocacy Toolkit Launch


The Youth Advocacy Toolkit - developed by Plan International, GEFI YAG and A World at School

with support from UNICEF, UNESCO, and the United Nations Girls’ Initiative (UNGEI) - is launched in English, French, and Spanish.


GEFI YAG put the toolkit into action by launching

a series of capacity building sessions/ workshops. The group encourage young people to advocate for education both in their communities and at

he country-level to support GEFI objectives.

UN Headquarters, New York

Beijing, China

Dakar, Senegal

Busan, Korea

Islamabad, Pakistan

Canberra, Australia

Paris, France

Hoima, Uganda

Bamenda, Cameroon

Amman, Jordan

 2 June 2014

16 July 2014

22 - 23 March 2015

30 March - 4 April 2015

11 - 13 September 2015

17 - 18 October 2015

28 October 2015

5 - 6 November 2015

17 - 19 December 2015

12 - 16 December 2015

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September 2014


On September 24, First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, delivers the special keynote address at GEFI’s high-level event, "Quality Education for the World We Want," as part of the 69th session of the UN General Assembly.


At the event, Heads of State and Government, Ministers, and global education leaders call for quality education, one of GEFI’s key priorities, to form part of the post-2015 education agenda.


While it’s vital that every child goes to school, the world leaders stress that access alone is not enough. Once children are in school, they must also learn.

December 2014


#DrawDisability Launch


GEFI, in partnership with the Global Observatory for Inclusion (GLOBI) and GEFI-YAG, launches #DrawDisability to raise awareness of the exclusion of children and young people with disabilities in education.


The global campaign is launched on the International Day of Persons with a Disability.

Other notable events

  • 7 January 2014

    The Secretary-General adds his support to Champions for the Children of Syria, a campaign led by UNICEF, UNHCR, and Save the Children. It will be a part of the new No Lost Generation strategy.

  • 4 - 10 March 2014

    The Global Campaign for Education’s Global Action Week Equal Right, Equal Opportunity: Education and Disability gets underway, working with its members and disabled people's organizations (DPOs) to raise awareness for inclusive education for children with disabilities. It lobbies for the inclusion of a focus on disability in the post-2015 education goals and frameworks.

  • 12 - 13 March 2014

    GEFI partners come together for the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, a platform for business and government leaders to forge new partnerships to achieve global education goals.


    Business Backs Education, a new campaign from the Global Education and Skills Forum, the Global Business Coalition for Education, and UNESCO, is launched. It challenges business to commit 20 percent of global Corportate Social Responsibility (CSR) spending on education by 2030.

  • 10 April 2014

    The UN Secretary-General and World Bank President co-host the Learning for All Symposium at The World Bank, convening ministers of finance and development leaders to address the learning crisis. The urgency is great, with 59 million children out of school, and millions more leaving school without the knowledge and skills they need to secure jobs and lead healthy and productive lives.

  • 12 - 14 May 2014

    The Global Education for All Meeting in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, brings together Member States, United Nations and bilateral agencies, civil society organizations, the private sector, research institutes and foundations. It results in the Muscat Agreement, which informs the proposed Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on education and its associated targets.

  • 26 - 30 May 2014

    Millions of children go through school and come out without basic literacy and numeracy skills. One of the primary reasons for this is a lack of qualified, motivated, and adequately resourced teachers.


    In response to this crisis, Education International (EI) holds a Unite for Quality Education conference in Montreal. Attended by 300 teacher union leaders and partners, and organized in close collaboration with GEFI, UNESCO and the OECD, it comes up with recommendations and commitments to improve education quality, financing, inclusivity, and foster education for global citizenship.

  • 25 - 26 June 2014

    The financing of education is a key issue in global efforts to deliver universal education. To ensure that the international community is committed to giving all children in the poorest countries access to school and learning, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), hosts its second replenishment pledging conference in Brussels.


    Developing country partners pledged a combined US $26 billion in domestic resources to basic education over 4 years. Donors pledge US $2.1 billion, which represents 60% of the target of US $3.5 billion set by GPE for its second replenishment.

  • 18 August 2014

    With Malala Yousafzai by his side, the UN Secretary-General marks 500 days of action until the deadline to reach the Millennium Development Goals, known worldwide as the “MDGs.” The two are joined by more than 500 young people, including GEFI YAG.


    Harnessing this momentum, the youth activists, in conjunction with A World At School, get ready to launch the #UpForSchool petition.

  • 18 September 2014

    As Member States continue to negotiate the post 2015 development agenda, GEFI teams up with UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report to launch ‘Sustainable Development Begins with Education’ at the UN in New York.


    Arabic version:

    ‘Sustainable Development Begins with Education’


Can We Keep the Education Promise?

2015 marks a turning point for global education and for UN GEFI – with education set to form a key part of future education agendas. But will the international community live up to its promises?

May - June 2015


#DrawDisability Exhibitions


Hundreds of drawings from GEFI’s #DrawDisability campaign are selected to form part of a traveling art installation to be seen at high-profile events throughout the year, including at the World Education Forum in May 2015, Incheon, Republic of Korea, and during the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (COSP-CRPD) in June 2015, New York.


May 2015


World Education Forum

In one of the most significant events for education in over a decade, UNESCO, jointly with UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women, UNHCR and the World Bank Group, invites world leaders in education, and key stakeholders to the World Education Forum 2015. Held in Incheon, the Republic of Korea, from May 19 - 22, the event leads to the adoption of the Incheon Declaration, representing a transformative, shared vision for education over the next 15 years.


GEFI YAG runs a session on the role of young people in Education 2030. They release a Call to Action on the implementation of their agenda and urge governments and education stakeholders to include young people as partners throughout the entire process.


July 2015

International Financing for Development Conference

The third International Financing for Development Conference is held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on July 13 - 16. Education takes center stage at the ‘Making the Investment Case for Education’ event, co-organized by GEFI Champion Countries, Ethiopia and the Republic of Korea (ROK), with UNESCO and Norway. UNESCO Director-General, Minister of Education of Ethiopia, Foreign Ministers of Norway and Republic of Korea and GPE Board Chair, draw attention to the need to increase financing for education and the staggering annual finance gap for basic education: US$26 billion.

September 2015


High Level Event - #EducationFirst for Sustainable Development


With the historical UN Summit providing the backdrop, world leaders gather at GEFI’s high-level event, #EducationFirst for Sustainable Development. Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, along with the First Lady of China, Peng Liyuan, take to the stage, highlighting education as the major driving force for building more inclusive, resilient societies and for achieving lasting peace.


GEFI’s Youth Advocacy Group (YAG), national youth delegates and a representative of the UN Major Group on Children and Youth, call world leaders to action. The young delegates demand that governments and education leaders learn from the lessons of the last fifteen years, and  take decisive action to move from promises to progress.

November 2015


Brightest Hope Launch


GEFI, in partnership with the International Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), launches The Brightest Hope on International Children’s Day. The booklet features essays from children and youth across the globe, building the case that education in emergencies must be a humanitarian response and to put out the message that Education Cannot Wait.

December 2015


Leave No One Behind: Continuing Conversations

on Inclusive Education


On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the year-long #DrawDisability campaign comes to a close, with a panel discussion and art exhibition at UN Headquarters.


The discussion, “Leave No One Behind: Continuing Conversations on Inclusive Education,” looks at the different issues and barriers learners with disabilities face in exercising their fundamental right to access quality education.

Other notable events

  • 28 - 30 January 2015

    Global Citizenship Education (GCED), one of GEFI’s key priorities, is receiving increased attention, signaling a change in expectations of the role and purpose of education in the 21st century. Reflecting this shift, UNESCO holds its 2nd Forum on Global Citizenship Education in Paris.


    GEFI organizes a youth side event, “Driving the GCE agenda forward: Mobilizing the Voices of the Youth."

  • 5 March 2015

    To mark International Women’s Day and contribute to the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women dialogue, GEFI, with the EFA GMR team, UNGEI, UNESCO, UNICEF and Plan, launch a policy brief on school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) and host the event: "Rallying to End School-Related Gender-Based Violence."

  • 6 March 2015

    GEFI hosts a seminar on Global Citizenship Education at UN headquarters, recognizing that today’s interconnected global challenges call for far-reaching changes in how we think and act for the dignity of fellow human beings and the future of the planet.


    The seminar gives member states and partner organizations an opportunity to learn more about this priority area for GEFI, and why it is no longer enough for education to produce individuals who can simply read, write and count.

  • 6 - 7 July 2015

    The Summit on Education for Development, Oslo, Norway, aims to mobilize a strong and renewed political commitment to reach the 59 million children who are still being denied their right to education, and to strengthen learning outcomes for children and young people of all ages.

  • 10 - 11 September 2015

    GEFI organizes a two-day Seminar on the Role of GCED in Peacebuilding at the UN in New York. The seminar brought together youth activists, NGO representatives, experts and educators from more than 25 countries and 12 organizations. Participants discussed ways to create opportunities for youth to engage in preventing violence affecting young people.

  • 25 - 27 September 2015

    UN Summit for Sustainable Development gets underway at the UN Headquarters. World leaders commit to a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the environment and ensure prosperity for all.

  • 29 September 2015

    To reverse the lack of financing for education around the world, the first meeting of the new International Commission on Financing Global Education is held in New York.

  • 3 - 5 November 2015

    GEFI’s partner, Educate A Child (EAC), convenes a session on education financing mechanisms at this year’s WISE Summit (World Innovation Summit for Education) in Doha, Qatar. An Initiative by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar and a global programme of the Education Above All Foundation (EAA), EAC is now providing education to over 2.1 million children in 38 countries.

Click the image to view

the #DrawDisability Artbook

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development


2016 marks the first year of action for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development  with 17 global

goals, including a standalone goal on education, adopted by world leaders at the UN in September 2015.


Sustainable Development Goal 4


#SDG4 of the #2030Agenda promises to make inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning a reality for all.  Today, 124 million children and youth are out of school, 63 million of them live in conflict-affected countries; 250 million children lack basic skills; and 757 million adults cannot read or write. The annual financing gap to provide 12 years of free, quality education stands at $39 billion.


When we put #EducationFirst, we can reduce poverty and hunger, end wasted potential, and build resilient, prosperous and peaceful societies. The call to put #EducationFirst is urgent.

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The UN Secretary General’s

Global Education First Initiative (GEFI)

2012 – 2016

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