Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Education is key to achieving inclusive and sustainable development. It is also a fundamental human right. Education gives better health, advances gender equality, and provides nations with skilled workers and more jobs.
The benefits of education are particularly pertinent in crises situations. Education offers hope and a foundation for rebuilding societies.
As highlighted in the Education Commission Report, increased financing for education is needed for the largest expansion of education opportunity in modern history: Creating a Learning Generation.
Unfortunately, the international community is failing to sufficiently invest in education. Developing countries on their part also need to invest more in their education systems. The Commission Report highlights the scale of the challenge, but also underlines the alternative cost of non action.
From a Norwegian perspective, we are optimistic. We see increased attention internationally and note a range of new ideas and investment opportunities for achieving SDG4. We strongly believe that the global community needs to give proper attention to closing financing gaps both in humanitarian situations, and for longer-term development.
In this respect, we see three instruments as particularly important: the Multilateral Development Bank Investment Mechanism suggested in the Commission Report; the Education Cannot Wait Fund for education in emergencies; and the Global Partnership for Education.
Multilateral Development Bank Investment Mechanism
Firstly, let me talk about the Multilateral Development Bank Investment Mechanism for Education.
This lies at the heart of the financing compact proposed by the Commission. A compact in which low and middle-income countries agree to review their policies and increase domestic expenditure for education. In return, the international community will provide additional investments.
This is one of the boldest and most important recommendations in the Commission Report. It is innovative and has the power to leverage billions of additional funds. It will also reduce duplication and fragmentation through better partner coordination and alignment behind country-owned education plans.
Multilateral Development Banks have access to policy makers at the highest levels. They also have the required systems and skills to make this happen, linking education into broader policy and systems reforms. We need to encourage them to play their part.
Education Cannot Wait
The second key instrument is the Education Cannot Wait fund, launched last year at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.
Less than 2 percent of humanitarian funding goes to education. It is not acceptable that tens of millions of children and young people in desperate circumstances wait for education and become "a lost generation". Since humanitarian crises often last for a long time, they should not be seen only as short-term challenges, but also in a longer-term perspective.
Moreover, when people flee their homes to seek refuge in neighboring countries, the pressure on those countries’ national systems increases significantly. I look forward to hearing more from His Excellency Dr. Nawaf Salam about Lebanon’s experience and truly impressive response in providing education for all communities. We know this has not been easy. Absorbing this amount of refugees is putting stress on the existing infrastructure and general population.
Education Cannot Wait is already helping to fill financing gaps and better coordinate humanitarian aid and long-term development. 113,4 million dollars has been raised so far, with an additional 100 million dollars’ worth of aid pledged by private sector partners through the Global Business Coalition. Funding to Chad, Syria and Yemen has been approved, with applications from Lebanon and Ethiopia in the pipeline.
Global Partnership for Education
The final instrument I would like to mention today is the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).
GPE is the only multi-stakeholder platform for education of its kind. Through its partnership approach, significant progress has been made in strengthening education systems and increasing access to quality education for millions of children.
A key strength of GPE is its focus on reaching the poorest and most vulnerable, those being left behind. Another strength is its investment approach that helps leverage greater domestic financing. We will all need to contribute to GPE’s replenishment later this year so that it becomes a success.
Let me also use this opportunity to promote the Safe School initiative.
In countries affected by war, going to school may be one of the most dangerous things a child can do. Schools and universities have increasingly become targets of violent attacks.
The Safe Schools Declaration was launched at an international conference in Oslo in May 2015. So far, 58 states have endorsed, including 17 in Africa. By joining the Declaration, our governments have made a set of commitments to protect education during armed conflict, by implementing the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.
In March this year Argentina will host a follow-up conference in Buenos Aires. The conference is an opportunity for all states to strengthen their commitment to the protection of education. Norway encourages all states to attend the conference and endorse the Safe Schools Declaration.
As I said earlier, I am an optimist.
The Education Cannot Wait fund and the financing compact both hold great potential to leverage significant new funding for education and help bridge the divide between humanitarian and long-term aid to education.
Together with the GPE replenishment, all this is pointing towards 2017 being a watershed year for education. Achieving progress this year will be critical to get us on the right trajectory so that the world achieves Sustainable Development Goal 4.
Norway is already investing in Education Cannot Wait and in the Global Partnership for Education. We now see great promise in the Multilateral Development Bank Investment Mechanism for Education and the financing compacts.
We encourage you all to invest more in education, and to join us in championing education in both development and humanitarian settings so that we together can achieve a Learning Generation!
In order to help keep education high on the international agenda, I am pleased to let you know that my government plans to host a high-level education conference in Oslo in June.