|Broadcast news presenter Katie Couric moderates questions to the panel at the UN ‘Girls Speak Out’ event.|
Achieving the goal of universal education will require a universal commitment. If all the children on earth – including the most vulnerable, excluded and marginalized – are to realize their right to a quality, rights-based education, all sectors of society must be energized, engaged, and committed to action.
From children left orphaned and traumatized as a result of natural disasters and armed conflict, to those consigned to a life of backbreaking labor by the poverty of their parents and those simply living in areas too remote to walk to any school, millions of young people do not have access to education. And in a world where being born female is too often synonymous with a life of discrimination, inequality and missed opportunities, girls face daunting challenges that require even more of our resources and attention.
Righting these wrongs will require the commitment and engagement of a broad range of stakeholders, from parents, teachers and local school boards to district and national authorities, policymakers, investors, non-governmental and civil-society organizations, international institutions and donor governments.
Four global partnerships are at the core of international efforts to accelerate progress in education and help countries achieve gender equality. These partnerships are the Education for All Global Action Plan, the Education for All-Fast-Track Initiative, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Cluster for Education in Emergencies.
The Education for All Global Action Plan, led by UNESCO, is a strategy to improve international and country-level coordination for Education for All (EFA), which aims to meet the learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015. It works to clarify the roles of the five international agencies spearheading the global EFA movement (UNESCO, UNDP, the UNFPA, UNICEF and the World Bank) and define their coordinated, joint action at the global level. Ultimately, it aims to improve targeted action on the ground, at the country level.
The Education for All-Fast-Track Initiative, launched by the World Bank, is a global partnership between developed and developing countries to promote free, universal basic education by 2015. The initiative seeks to ensure that no country that has demonstrated its commitment to education will fail to meet this goal for lack of resources or technical capacity. In addition to mobilizing funds, the initiative supports the design of comprehensive sector-wide education plans and fills gaps in policy, capacity and data.
The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), led by UNICEF, is a partnership of organizations committed to closing the gender gap in primary and secondary education. UNGEI provides advocacy and technical support for designing, financing and implementing national education plans. It offers stakeholders – which include UN system agencies, governments, donor countries, non-governmental organizations, civil society, the private sector, communities and families – a platform for action and galvanizes their efforts to get girls into school.
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee Cluster for Education in Emergencies is part of larger UN reform efforts to increase the effectiveness of humanitarian relief. UNICEF and the Save the Children Alliance are lead agencies for the partnership, whose task at the country level is to clarify the roles, responsibilities and accountability of UN and non-UN partners seeking to restore schooling in specific crisis situations. It also seeks to better coordinate efforts to rebuild education systems in post-crisis transitions.
Achieving universal education and gender equality will require a truly global commitment. Governments, civil society, agencies and other key stakeholders must work together to help every child, in every country in the world, realize his or her inalienable right to a quality education.
Equity and Inclusion in Education: A guide to support education sector plan preparation, revision and appraisal, April 2010 [PDF]