Keep hammering the evidence that education equals progress across the Sustainable Development Goals, urged UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education Stefania Giannini, an appeal echoed by top UN officials at the opening of the sixth meeting of the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee on 11 March 2019 at UNESCO Headquarters.
“The Steering Committee is a global think tank for education. It has a political, technical and advocacy responsibility to raise up education as a basic human right and key driver for sustainable development,” she said. “It is only through determination, cooperation and engagement that we will succeed in moving forwards, leveraging the knowledge, capacities, and networks that each of you represents.“
Counting 32 Members, the Committee, co-presided by UNESCO, is a unique consultation and coordination mechanism for education in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. It brings together representatives from Member States, multilateral institutions, regional organizations, civil society networks, teacher organizations, foundations, private sector and youth.
This sixth Committee meeting, organized by UNESCO and co-chaired by Japan, takes place at a crucial crossroads, ahead of the UN High-Level Political Forum in July, which will review SDG4, and the SDG Summit in September.
Keep the pressure
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed stressed in a video message “the importance of the Committee for guiding the implementation of SDG4 and all its connections to the other 16 goals. This involves prioritizing, collaborating and advocating around a shared vision.”
“Our imperative is clear: to mobilize the political will, policies, capacity and financing that will make progress possible,” she said. “Each member of this Committee has a voice and a role. I urge you to keep the pressure on political leaders to show, in all the upcoming forums, that they are serious about meeting this challenge.”
United Nations Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr Liu Zhenmin, also underscored the crucial role of the Steering Committee in the follow-up and review of SDG4 and the 2030 agenda. “Success in delivering on SDG4 would contribute considerably towards achieving other goals – reducing inequalities, building knowledge to increase ambition of climate action, and empowering people toward the jobs of the future,” he said.
Speaking with one voice
Ms Giannini stressed that the Brussels Declaration, adopted at the Global Education Meeting in Brussels in December 2018, provides the shared vision and direction to speak with one voice in this decisive year for education. She urged the education community to act in coordinated and concerted ways, warning that “fragmentation can and never will be the solution.”
The Brussels Declaration sets inclusion as the driving principle of all policies, and spells out 8 priority areas to unlock progress in the next four years.
A panel on follow-up to the Brussels meeting noted the positive ways in which the Brussels Declaration is informing policy, including at EU level. Speakers referred to it as a “practical tool and reference,” a means to rally and strengthen the education movement, and commended its emphasis on teachers, as well as on the inclusion of refugees in education systems.
Aligning policies and priorities
In a series of presentations, regional organizations and Member States explained how they are aligning policies and priorities with the SDG4 agenda. Colombia’s Minister of National Education of Colombia, Maria Victoria Angulo Gonzalez, stated that the SDG agenda is pivotal for planning the education sector. She described her Government’s comprehensive approach to equity and inclusion, encompassing legal reforms, intersectoral strategies and programmes at all levels. These include the promotion of early childhood care and education, rural education, school nutrition and attention to global citizenship in curricula.
Many national presentations highlighted the challenges of literacy, teacher training, curriculum innovation, skills training, migration and financing. They noted the complexity of translating the broad scope of SDG4 into policy and difficulties in meeting the demand for more and better data to monitor SDG4 targets.
Running for 2 days, the committee is discussing its joint submission to the High Level Political Forum, and key areas for engagement, joint work and advocacy, with a view to reinforcing coordination around SDG4 at national, regional and global level.