Excellencies, Distinguished guests,
It is my great pleasure to join you today on behalf of the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning, co-chaired by the Permanent Missions of Argentina, Czech Republic, Japan, Kenya and my own country Norway.
Convinced of education’s critical role for accelerating the 2030 Agenda, and promoting human rights and dignity, the Group champions the need to invest both politically, and financially, in continued learning for all. Both as a human right, and development imperative.
Today we have gathered to “reimagine what the education Post COVID 19 will be”. For us, this means considering important questions, such as:
- What is needed to guarantee that education won’t be disrupted again?
- What can be done to stop the increase in vulnerability and the deepening of existing inequalities?
- How can our education systems be more open and resilient? Including through using flexible learning pathways.
These are just some of the questions we hope will be discussed today.
Weeks and months of disrupted education has resulted in lost learning for children and youth. For many -especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds- school closures may also lead to other challenges, such as: reduced access to psychosocial support and to nutritious meals, a difficult entry into the labour market, or even permanent dropouts.
We are especially concerned that the COVID-19 crisis will risk reversing 20 years of progress related to education for girls. Experience has shown that domestic violence, sexual exploitation, early pregnancies and marriages, are likely to increase when the schools are closed. Amid the current crisis, many young women and girls will perhaps never find their way back to the classroom. We must do all that we can to prevent this.
Just as we embarked on the Decade of Action this year, the international community is now facing a severe human security crisis. One which puts at risk our hard won gains, and efforts, to achieve the 2030 Agenda.
The 2020 HLPF therefore takes place in a unique context. We find ourselves in a time of uncertainty, as we are yet to see the full long-term impacts of the pandemic. But, this period also presents an opportunity. Our return to “normal” should require also re-evaluating and adjusting efforts to fulfil our joint commitment to foster a sustainable future by 2030.
Just one year ago, during the review of SDG 4, the HLPF sent a strong signal. We underscored the urgent need to accelerate progress to not only “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning for all”, but to do so as a building block to advance the implementation of all 17 SDGs.
We still have a long way to go.
Not all students or teachers have access to an adequate internet connection, or the equipment and skills to fully utilise the potential provided by digital learning. While this may come with a significant price tag, education should not be seen merely as a cost. It is an investment in the acceleration of progress towards sustainable development for all.
The recently launched 2020 UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report sent a clear message that “All means All”. As we invest in distance learning and simultaneously prepare for schools to reopen, firm action must be taken to ensure that marginalised groups are included. This precisely is the key message we must advocate for on the occasion of the 2020 HLPF. The challenges of our times calls for greater political commitment to education as an enabler for peace, human rights, equality, human wellbeing and green growth.
Our Group’s message is thus a simple one: Let us join forces and seize this momentum to safeguard international and domestic investment in education as a prerequisite for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda as a whole. Let us foster the political will needed to place education at the heart of recovery plans.
Now, more than ever, we have to make use of the transformative power of knowledge, education, and learning, to get back on track and leave no one behind.
This crisis presents an opportunity for all stakeholders to come together and improve coordination within the global education architecture. This begins with the SDG Education Steering Committee, our main multi-stakeholder coordination mechanism for the implementation of SDG 4 on education.
Through engaged leadership, genuine commitments, and coordinated actions during and after the COVID 19 response, the education community can leverage the comparative advantages of all actors to truly deliver for the children and youth of the world.
You can count on the ‘Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning’ to remain engaged, and work to build synergies between the global education architecture and the UN forums, including the HLPF.