Time to deliver: GCE and partners hold governments to account at the High-level Political Forum 2017
July 2017 has seen a host of activity by the Global Campaign for Education, its members and its partners to hold governments to account for the commitments they made two years ago to deliver Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education.
Education as a priority: lobbying UN representatives
On Monday 10 July, the 2017 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) opened in New York. As the forum which holds countries to account for the implementation of the SDGs at the UN level, the HLPF is a critical mechanism through which civil society can question governments on their progress. After initial concerns regarding the level of priority SDG4 would receive in the final declaration, GCE members mobilised across a 24 hour period to lobby their UN Permanent Representatives to push for the inclusion of educaiton as foundational to the realisation of all SDGs. In total, 30 UN representatives received this demand:
Albania, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Chile, Denmark, Dominican Republic, France, Ghana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tanzania, Timor Leste, UK, US, and Vietnam.
Making SDG 4’s commitment to universal, free education vital
Also on Monday 10th July, over 40 participants gathered at the UN Headquarters for an event organised by GCE and the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE), on behalf of the Education and Academia Stakeholder Group (EASG). The event, Making SDG 4’s commitment to universal, free education vital, discussed ways to ensure equal access to quality education and lifelong leaning for all, since this is one of the greatest tools societies hold to tackle poverty and inequality.
H.E. Milan Milanović, Ambassador, Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Serbia to the United Nations opened the session, underlining that “the best way to meet the challenge of rapid development and constant changes is to make people lifelong learners – to help them to learn how to learn, to motivate and inspire them, and to offer them possibilities for continuous improvement and to promote lifelong opportunities for all groups and all ages.”
Mr Milanovic emphasized that Serbia is strongly committed to seeing education as crucial to the comprehensive attainment of all SDGs, which are interconnected and mutually dependent.
The underlining spirit of this event, moderated by Katarina Popović, Secretary General of ICAE, was intersectionality, an approach needed to promote dialogue and coordination among all actors and fields, in tune with the recognition of the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights that are reflected across the 17 SDGs.
Based on this approach, Chikezie Anyanwu, GCE Global Coordinator, emphasised three main crosscutting points to ensure inclusive, equitable, quality education for all: qualified and valued teachers, appropriate financing, and participation and open dialogue space with civil society. He pointed out that “a better education system is the answer to most of the world’s problems.” Similarly, poverty, hunger, poor health, gender discrimination and climate-related disasters are detrimental to the realisation of SDG4.
Addressing the challenges of financing and privatisation in education from the regional point of view, Rene Raya, Asian South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE) warned about ambitious targets that are not matched by equally ambitious financing commitments and strategies and highlighted the need for stronger and wider alliances as well as advocacy for higher investment and official development assistance for education. Otherwise the impact on the already marginalised and poor is further amplified, as inequalities are widened even further and public education systems weakened. He brought up several convincing examples from South Asia Pacific, illustrating the impact of increased privatisation on the poor and marginalised through widening inequality even further weakening the public education system
Katarina Popović, ICAE, concluded that education is essential for sustainable growth, for building social cohesion and boost shared prosperity, and promoting human rights and equality: "education is the most sustainable, long-term driver to increase prosperity and to end poverty for good".
The event saw participants intensively discussing challenges, practices and discourses which threaten the realisation of SDG4, giving national examples and looking at the need to focus on the learning opportunities for diverse societal groups, ensuring that so no one will be left behind. It was widely agreed that education needs to be a policy and financial priority at all levels and the part of inter-sectorial strategies and coordination among different actors: all in defence of free and universal education.
Voluntary National Reviews
In the second week of the HLPF, countries which took part in the 2017 Voluntary National Reviews, in which governments have to account for the implementation of the SDGs at national level, will be questioned on their progress. CLADE, ICAE and the GCE Secretariat have been reviewing the reports, and working with national coalitions to identify questions which could be asked during this part of the Forum.