Parliamentarians champion education at UN annual hearing

More than 200 parliamentarians from over 60 countries affirmed the centrality of education for peace and development and stressed the need for new learning models geared to global challenges during an annual hearing organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the UN General Assembly on 17 and 18 February 2020.

Addressing the opening panel of the hearing, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education Stefania Giannini stated: “Just as climate change is on every political agenda, education must galvanize the same emotion, urgency and attention. It is a right and a public responsibility for which governments are accountable. Knowledge is wealth and education is our most valuable renewable energy for setting globalization on a more just, inclusive and sustainable course.”

She called upon parliamentarians to step up political pressure on education. “Our universal 2030 roadmap is up against a hard reality check. The test is to connect principles, politics and policy,” she said, highlighting three urgencies facing all education systems. These are to act for a culture of inclusion through affirmative policy actions, to make education fit for purpose and future ready, and to break policy silos.

These themes were addressed over the course of the hearing, with panels on gender, citizenship, technical and vocational skills, safeguarding the planet and funding. Throughout exchanges between parliamentarians, UN representatives and experts, strong emphasis was placed on improving access for vulnerable groups, training teachers, designing curricula that equip students with 21st century competences and fostering a culture of lifelong learning to navigate the Fourth Industrial Revolution.   The hearing provided a platform for sharing policy experiences from a wide diversity of contexts, while reflecting very similar concerns around access, equity and skills for fast-changing labour markets, global citizenship and environmental responsibility.

The President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Gabriel Cuevas Barron, voiced the importance of parliaments as a bridge between international commitments and local realities. “Education is a matter of political will,” she stated. “Through education we can build a more equal and inclusive planet. We cannot imagine a real fight against climate change if we don’t include these challenges into learning. We cannot imagine a real democracy if part of our constituency cannot read or write. And gender equality can only be reached with a real cultural change that can only happen through education for girls and boys.”

The President of the UN General Assembly, Mr Tijjani Muhammad Bande, stated that parliaments have a major role to play in scaling up action to provide youth with the best start in life, emphasizing that education is a cross-cutting goal.

“Education is the great equalizer and if we fail to invest in our people, especially our youth, we will fail in implementing the primary mandate of the United Nations, which is to uphold peace and security for all. I call on you as elected representatives of people to take action to implement SDG4 – we must guarantee at a minimum universal access to basic education,“ he said.

Addressing the hearing on behalf of the UN Secretary-General, Maria Luiza Viotti, UN Chef de Cabinet, emphasized that empowering women and girls though education is vital for achieving sustainable development and gender equality in all societies.

“Quality education for all is a number one priority for a better world. And the first priority within the first priority is quality education for all girls,” she stressed.

Several UN representatives called on parliamentarians to play an active role in ensuring that education receives adequate budget allocations and that funding is allocated on an equity basis.

“One of our most important challenges is to improve our capacity to deliver,” said IPU’s President Ms Cuevas Barron. “We need you to go back to your countries and present the necessary bill and budget allocations and to work with your governments on a new education model that is more inclusive and fair.”

The IPU Annual Parliamentary hearing is a forum for debate on global issues between parliamentarians, the UN and other stakeholders. The hearing’s conclusions and recommendations feed into the work of the UN.

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