In September 2012, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, launched with world leaders the Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) with the primary objective of elevating the profile of education on the international agenda, spurring renewed efforts by countries, and mobilising resources to realise Education for All (EFA). The Initiative prioritised three focus areas: putting every child in school; improving the quality of learning; and fostering global citizenship. By the end of the year, the Secretary-General requested that UNESCO assume the role of secretariat for GEFI. As part of its mandate, UNESCO set about to facilitate the development of annual action plans and key messaging, coordinate the engagement of ‘Champion Countries’, inform member states of GEFI activities, support outreach and advocacy, and coordinate with other EFA mechanisms, such as Educate A Child (EAC).
UNESCO concentrated on providing professionals to staff the GEFI Secretariat, organising bi-annual High-Level Steering Committee meetings, fostering global citizenship, planning policy forums on the use of natural resource revenues to finance education, developing communications tools and publications, and leading high-visibility GEFI anniversary celebrations. To that end, EAC seconded a programme specialist in communications to serve GEFI’s aims. Ultimately, this partnership project combined the strengths of various stakeholders at different levels and built a broad coalition of partners to advocate for education on political agendas.
Since GEFI’s launch in 2012 the global education landscape underwent dynamic transformation, and the Initiative was poised to seize the moment. Significantly, the UN adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in which GEFI played an instrumental role advocating for the inclusion of comprehensive education, SDG4. Under the auspices of GEFI, EAC and UNESCO organised the high-level panel discussion, Girls’ Education: An Effective for Empowerment, which featured representatives from the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, UNESCO and UNICEF. Together with EAC, UNESCO planned the ‘Quality Education for the World We Want’ event during 69th UNGA session, which featured a keynote address by the First Lady of the United States and presidents from Croatia, Guyana, South Korea and Tunisia as speakers. Notwithstanding the importance of convening world leaders to commit to quality education for all, GEFI also provided resources to support education advocates, such as the ‘#DrawDisability’ and ‘Education Promise’ videos, as well as the Investing in Girls, Global Citizenship Education 2014 and 2015, and Education in Conflict infographics. Furthermore in 2014, EAC and UNESCO launched the Education for All Global Monitoring Report booklet, which called for a holistic approach to sustainable development.