New York — Look around the world at this very moment. Whether we look at it in stark numbers and statistics, whether we look at it as a generational loss of basic human rights, including the right to an education, or whether we look inwardly and feel the unspeakable human suffering and devastation taking place, we all agree: we are at a historically low point in our collective humanity.
The UN Secretary-General has launched several multilateral calls in the name of the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals to change this and to mobilize the international financing and action needed to do so.
Among these, three are of immediate relevance to the delivery of an inclusive quality education to children and youth left furthest behind in emergencies and protracted crises: armed conflicts, forced displacement and climate-induced disasters.
The first call to action refers to the UN Reform, whereby we must end silos and competition, and work together through joint programming, humanitarian-development coherence and local empowerment – with a focus on those left furthest behind.
In this vein, Education Cannot Wait was operationalized in 2017. At the time, an estimated 75 million children and youth were left behind as their education had been disrupted in crisis-affected and refugee-hosting countries. Since then, Education Cannot Wait has transformed from a new start-up fund to a matured United Nations global fund (hosted by UNICEF), with the design and agility to advance UN Reform in how we deliver education in emergencies and protracted crises to those left furthest behind.
The second call to action refers to Our Common Agenda. Once more, the top-priority for the United Nations’ 193 Member States is to leave no one behind and to reinforce the quality of their education and learning outcomes. Due to COVID-19, the number of children and youth left furthest behind in brutal conflict, forced displacement and climate-induced disasters has sky-rocketed to nearly 130 million.
We must remember them as we prepare for the third relevant call for action: the UN Secretary-General’s Transforming Education Summit, to be held during the UN General Assembly week in September. This is our opportunity to focus international financing and multilateral action on these 130 million vulnerable children and youth.
Without an inclusive quality education, these crisis-affected girls and boys will be prevented from claiming their human rights and disempowered from rebuilding peace in their own lives and in their countries. Tragically, they will be reduced only to representing the staggering gap in reaching all the Sustainable Development Goals, not least, SDG4.
By connecting the dots between the UN Secretary-General’s UN Reform, Our Common Agenda and the Transforming Education Summit, we have a unique, historic opportunity to finally reach the millions of children and youth who are today left furthest behind.
As Norway’s Minister of International Development Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, states in her interview of this month’s ECW Newsletter: “UN Member States have committed to leave no one behind in their implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.” In doing so, she concludes: “The success of this work depends on close collaboration between states, multilateral organizations, civil society organizations, organizations of persons with disabilities, and a wide range of partners.”
This is how the United Nations works. This is how Education Cannot Wait – the UN global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises – works to reach those left furthest behind, together with other major financing mechanisms, such as the International Financing Facility for Education (IFFED) and the Global Partnership for Education.
Leonardo da Vinci once said: “Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” Indeed, every vision, every call for action, every effort for change, is conditioned by our ability – not only to see, but how we see – by connecting the dots. Only then can we hit the real target and produce scaled up results.
Today, we see 130 million vulnerable children and youth without an education struggling simply to survive in armed conflicts, forced displacement and climate-induced disasters – none of their own making. Now is the time to connect the dots between UN Reform, Our Common Agenda and the Transforming Education Summit, by squarely placing the focus and financing on those left furthest behind.
Yasmine Sherif is Director, Education Cannot Wait (ECW)
The UN Global Fund for Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises