$495.3M Committed to Education at Global Citizen Festival
Millions of people are set to be affected.
Kofi Annan, the late humanitarian and former head of the United Nations, once said that “education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”
This notion of education’s fundamental role reverberated throughout Global Citizen Week this year, as world leaders made significant commitments to ensuring that all children are able to go to school.
Annan’s words were quoted by Ulla Tornaes, Denmark’s minister for development cooperation, when she came on 2018 Global Citizen Festival stage in New York to announce a $46 million commitment to the Education Cannot Wait Fund (ECW), which helps to provide education to the more than 75 million children around the world who are denied schooling due to conflict or disaster.
“Kofi Annan was right,” Tornaes said on stage. “Education is the foundation on which free, liberal, democratic societies are built. Education is the soil in which dreams, hopes, and aspirations will grow into reality. Without education, we will not get the world we want. A world that is more just, fair and peaceful. A world of tomorrow that is better than today. For all of us. Not just some of us.”
Over the course of the week, five commitments and seven announcements onstage valued at $495.3 million were made toward education following 289,291 actions taken by global citizens in the preceding months. In total, these commitments are set to affect 31.5 million lives.
Yasmin Sherif, the director of Education Cannot Wait, joined Tornaes on stage for her momentous announcement and emphasized the importance of education in emergency settings.
“For kids who have had their homes, their families, their lives taken away, all they want is to go back to school and feel some sort of normalcy,” Sherif said.
She went on to say that ECW would be expanding its efforts to bring assistance to children in Afghanistan, Yemen, Lebanon, Nigeria, and South Sudan.
She also thanked Will Smith, who, earlier in the week, teamed up with Global Citizen to raise funds for ECW on his birthday by jumping out of a helicopter over the Grand Canyon.
It’s a cause the actor has long championed through the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation.
When children are denied an education, they’re more likely to experience violence, forced labor, human trafficking, forced marriage, hunger and malnutrition, and recruitment by militias, according to the ECW. Adults who missed out on education early in life are more likely to live in poverty, die early, and contract disease, and their children are more likely to repeat this cycle.
It’s a crisis that affects girls most acutely, and that understanding was a major theme of the week, including when Canadian musician Shawn Mendes took to social media to support Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s focus on Girls’ education. Mendes remotely joined an event, “Leave No Girl Behind”, hosted by the Governments of France, Canada, the UK, Niger, Jordan, Kenya and Global Citizen that focused on making sure all girls are able to get at least 12 years of schooling. On stage, Mendes echoed his call for all leaders to commit the necessary foreign aid to help 264 million kids unable to go to school around the world.
Earlier this year, over 122,603 global citizens urged the Netherlands to support girls’ education with a new pledge to GPE.
At the Leave No Girl Behind event, Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch minister for foreign trade and development cooperation, came on stage to announce that the country will make a new commitment of €100 million to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).
Whereas ECW focuses on emergency situations, GPE takes a more expansive approach by training teachers and administrators, creating funding networks, and improving schools in developing countries. Both organizations are looking to hit multi-billion dollar funding targets that would enable them to bring education to all children.
“It was a gap in our policy,” Kaag said, referring to the fact that the Dutch government have not made a pledge to GPE in over 4 years (after at one time being the second biggest GPE donor). “It was the omission in our engagement. As a long standing partner for women’s rights, girls’ rights. We’ve done a lot but education was the missing link. It’s back and through the GPE we are happy to commit €100 million.”
Other countries framed education in the larger context of foreign aid at the festival.
For example, US senators Chris Coons of Delaware and Jeff Flake of Arizona declared their bipartisan support for protecting foreign aid from budgets cuts. They were encouraged to make this stand after 57,319 Global Citizens called their senators in support of foreign aid.
Ireland made the strongest case for foreign aid of the evening when Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney announced that the country would spend 0.7% of its gross national income on overseas development by 2030, meeting a global benchmark that only six other countries have met. Additionally, Coveney said that Ireland would spend EUR$250 million on education over the next five years.
In addition to improving baseline education conditions around the world, there’s a growing divide among technological capabilities both between and within countries. Verizon announced on the global citizen stage that it would expand its Verizon Innovation Learning program to reach an additional 2 million students in the US by 2021.
The technology company brought out two students affected by the program.
“Before the Verizon program, I wasn’t engaged with schoolwork,” a student named Chelsie told the audience. “After we received the technology, I started doing more interesting projects, so I became excited about going to school every day. Now, I’m consistently getting As.”