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Every Country Grappling with Deep Questions of Equity, Quality in Education Systems, Deputy Secretary-General Says at Briefing on Forthcoming Summit

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the briefing to Member States on the Transforming Education Summit, in New York today:

Thank you for joining this second briefing on the Transforming Education Summit.

As you will recall, the Secretary-General is convening this Summit next September to renew our collective commitment to education as a pre-eminent public good.  With leadership of Governments and the engagement of everyone involved in education, the Summit can help mobilize the action, ambition, solidarity and solutions needed to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 and transform education between now and 2030.  This in turn will generate benefits across all the SDGs and for our collective pursuit of peace, human rights and sustainable, inclusive development.

Today’s meeting provides an opportunity to update you on recent developments and to hear your views and recommendations on the preparatory process.  From the outset, the Secretary-General and I have been clear that Member States will be central to this Summit.  With less than six months to go, we remain fully committed to this principle.

Allow me to begin with a short update on our preparations.  First, as I briefed at our last meeting, the Secretary-General has appointed Leonardo Garnier as his Special Adviser on the Summit.  Mr. Garnier is with us today and will introduce himself in a moment.  He brings to the role a wealth of lived experience, including two terms as Minister of Education in Costa Rica.  Together with the Summit secretariat, he will play a critical role in spearheading our engagements with Member States and in expanding our outreach to all stakeholders.  We are very pleased to have him on board.

Second, progress is being made towards the establishment of the Summit Advisory Committee.  We will convene the first meeting of this group on 17 March.  I am pleased to report that David Moinina Sengeh, Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education and Chief Innovation Officer of Sierra Leone, has been nominated by the SDG4 High Level Steering Committee to serve as the Advisory Committee Co-Chair.  Minister Sengeh is a leading voice on education in Africa and I look forward to working closely with him.

A nomination process for delegations in Paris and in New York to participate in the Committee will conclude today.  Once all nominations have been received, we will circulate the full list of Advisory Committee members to delegations.

Third, momentum towards September is building.  In the last two weeks, education was high on the agenda of the regional Sustainable Development Forums for Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean regions that I attended in Kigali and Costa Rica.  The engagement will continue at upcoming forums that I will attend in Beirut, Bangkok and Geneva, covering the Arab, Asia, and European regions.  Next week, I will also visit Paris to engage directly with delegations to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other partners and to hold the first Advisory Committee meeting.

With such outreach and our interactions today, we hope to be able to move towards agreement of arrangements for the Summit work streams by the end of this month.  That will leave us with three months to get national consultations, thematic action tracks and public mobilization workstreams off the ground, before the Pre-Summit in Paris, which is now proposed to take place on 28-29 June.  Between July and September, including through the high-level political forum, the emphasis will be on expanding the reach of the preparatory process, solidifying ongoing efforts and shaping the transformation.

In addition to these preparations, we are moving closer to finalizing the proposed focus and process of the Summit workstreams.  I wish to emphasize that this document is for consultation, and I hope for your feedback, ideas and proposals on the concept note we have shared, both today and during next week’s briefing in Paris.  Allow me to provide a short summary of what is proposed based on outreach to date with United Nations partners and your inputs during our first meeting on 18 February.

First, national consultations.  We propose that Governments undertake an inclusive process to develop a shared vision across constituencies on key elements and priorities to transform education between now and 2030.  In developed and developing countries alike, we are far off track but continue to pursue our education goals.

National consultations would seek to inspire urgent action to recover pandemic-related learning losses.  They could help identify ambitious national benchmarks to get SDG4 back on track.  They could include ideas on reimagining education.  And they could consider commitments towards increased and more effective public financing.  Such a process would build on existing plans, best practices and frameworks and examine issues of policy, planning and budgetary arrangements.  It would engage a wide range of stakeholders and should go beyond education ministries to involve those responsible for finance, health, environment, digital connectivity and more.  Consultations will be supported by the Summit secretariat and led by United Nations country teams.  Member States will be asked to consider how all of this could feed into a vision for transforming education to be discussed by Heads of State and Government at the Summit.

Second, thematic action tracks.  These are areas that require greater attention and action to support national transformation efforts.  Action tracks could help showcase successful policies and innovations, strengthen existing initiatives and mobilize new commitments to action.  Five thematic areas that cut across the education cycle are proposed for your consideration:  one, inclusive, equitable, safe and healthy schools; two, learning and skills for life, work and sustainable development; three, teachers, teaching and the teaching profession; four, digital learning; and five, education financing — both domestic and international.

These themes are informed by the priority actions identified in the 2020 Global Education Meeting Declaration.  And they and are aligned with the emerging focus of the High-Level Steering Committee on SDG4.  Under each action track, a clear and concrete focus will be placed on issues of equity and gender equality.  We envisage open consultations on each of these tracks, drawing on existing coalitions and networks, with contributions from around the world via virtual platforms and tools.

Each action track would be co-led by a Member State champion and a leading stakeholder.  Substantive support would come from United Nations entities, other multilateral entities, and the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser.  Member States that are interested in serving as a co-lead champion for a given thematic action track are encouraged to register their interest with the Summit secretariat.

The third workstream relates to public mobilization.  It seeks to democratize and localize dialogue around education to grow a global movement for education transformation.  It will include measures to place youth, children, and key stakeholders such as teachers at the centre of the Summit process.  And one of its goals will be to strengthen public awareness of quality, relevant, inclusive education, and thereby increase demand for greater prioritization of political and financial support for education.  Effective communication through an online community platform and a mobilization hub will be key to this track.

Our proposals are ambitious, and time is short.  Across the world, education is at a crossroads and your leadership will be key to ensuring we choose the path of opportunity and transformation.  While challenges vary significantly, each and every country is grappling with deep questions regarding equity and quality in education systems and their ability to prepare learners of all ages to contribute to the world we want.  This task is of the utmost importance, with far-reaching implications for all.

If the Summit is to maximize its impact, a dynamic, inclusive, ambitious and country-led process is an essential first step.  And it will only happen with your full and active engagement.  I look forward to hearing your views and reflections.


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