“There’s hardly a better time and place, when the world literally comes together, for Educate A Child (EAC) and our parent organisation, Education Above All, to join in this global conversation and contribute to the making of a more just, more equitable and sustainable planet”, remarked Dr Mary Joy Pigozzi, Executive Director, in the run up to the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 73), which was held from 18 September to 5 October 2018 in New York City.
Under the rubric of “Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies”, this UNGA session outlined the following priority areas for action: promoting gender equality; promoting and implementing new global compacts on migration and refugees; highlighting innovative thinking around the future of work; protecting the environment, particularly from plastics pollution; raising awareness on persons with disabilities; implementing UN system reforms; and promoting peace.
Against the backdrop of such compelling aims for the betterment of our world, EAC had a robust presence through the duration of UNGA 73, assembling critical stakeholders, technical experts and key partners, and taking up important issues in education head on. Together with Plan International, EAC led the workshop “How to Reach Boys and Girls Left Too Far Behind? Innovative Approaches to Track and Keep Children in School” as part of the WISE New York portal on 22 September. The workshop focussed on using technology as a tool, integrating encrypted data on out of school children (OOSC) and stakeholder engagement across the education sector. “Innovative Approaches” gathered representatives from, amongst many others, Genki Global, Spotify, Teach for Mexico, the University of Pennsylvania and World Learning. EAC-partners, Plan International, UNESCO and UNICEF, also contributed presentations on innovative OOSC monitoring and tracking mechanisms to this UNGA side event.
At the Concordia Annual Summit on 25 September, a nonpartisan forum of key decision-makers and influencers from the public, private and non-profit sectors, Fahad Al Sulaiti, CEO, Education Above All was joined by Robert Hakiza, co-Founder and Executive Director of Young African Refugees for Integral Development; Kelly Clements, Deputy High Commissioner for UNHCR; and Per Heggenes, CEO, IKEA Foundation at the plenary panel “Beyond a Refugee” session, which brought the strengths of former refugees in host communities to bear. The panel stressed how resiliency and skill sets on the part of refugees are critical factors in economic and social empowerment.
Furthermore, EAA/EAC, in partnership with the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (IsFD), organised the “Financing for Out of School Children” event on 28 September, which featured addresses from Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO; Dr Waleed Al Wohaib, Director General, IsFD; Abou Diarra, PhD, Technical Advisor to the Minister of Education, Republic of Mali; and Khalifa Al Kuwari, CEO, Qatar Fund for Development. After the introductory remarks, a panel discussion was held to delve into innovative approaches to finance primary education for the world’s most vulnerable OOSC. The panel comprised: Fahad Al Sulaiti, CEO, Education Above All; Dr Keiko Miwa, Director for the Education Global Practice, World Bank; Shahida Azfar, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF; Safeena Husain, Executive Director, Educate Girls; Charles Tapp, Manager for Partnerships and External Relations, Global Partnership for Education; and David Offensend, President and CEO, Education Development Center (EDC). This important discussion was wide ranging with respect to education financing for OOSC, but specifically touched on how the harmonisation of approaches can strengthen government capacity; the relevance of social impact bonds; and strategies to overcome local barriers. In addition to the panel, HE Masud Husain, Special Envoy of Canada to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, delivered remarks from the floor on the importance of continued financing in support of girls’ education.
As a capstone to this event, EAA and the IsFD signed a landmark partnership agreement to transform the fashion in which developing countries may finance primary education for OOSC. The Government of Mali announced its readiness to join this monumental education funding programme, which would support more than 596,000 OOSC in the country through the joint EAC/EDC-project “Programme d’accès à l’éducation pour tous les enfants au Mali (PACETEM)”.
EAA/EAC, amongst key partners and stakeholders, eminent personalities and world government, was honoured to participate in UNGA 73 and champion education for OOSC in a sustainable development agenda for us all.