Governments, UN System Discuss SDG 4 Links with Human Rights
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
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An event on the SDGs and human rights drew upon the findings of the 2017/8 Global Education Monitoring Report to consider how upholding children’s rights is crucial to achieving SDG 4.

Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, explained that the new International Finance Facility for Education will serve as a guarantee-based loan agency and will allow leveraging the current US$12 billion provided in aid for education to bring additional US$10 billion.

Tarcila Rivera Zea, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (Peru), emphasized that the situation of the indigenous girls needs special focus because of high dropout rates, including due to sexual abuse by teachers.

16 April 2018: Representatives of governments and the UN system explored what human rights can bring to the implementation of SDG 4 (quality education) and vice versa. Drawing upon the findings of the 2017/8 Global Education Monitoring Report, the discussion considered how upholding children’s rights is crucial to achieving SDG 4, as well as new ideas for overcoming the challenges of financing investment in education, including a proposal for an International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd).

The event titled, ‘A Dialogue on SDGs and Human Rights,’ took place on 16 April 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. The meeting was co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Ecuador, Ecuador, Mongolia, Norway and South Africa, and organized by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Discussions addressed, in particular, the value of upholding prohibitions against child labor, child slavery and child marriage.

Noting that a quarter of million children and youth are out of school, Andrew Gilmour, OHCHR, said education is the best long-term financial investment that States can make. He said school fees should be abolished and support provided for all children of minority groups, including children with disabilities. He announced that IFFEd will be created in 2018.

Gordon Brown, Chair of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity and UN Special Envoy for Global Education, stressed that education is one of the fundamental human rights stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He underscored that SDG 4 cannot be achieved without focusing on abolishing child labor, child slavery, child marriage and child trafficking. He called for clarifying what the “right to education” means and specifically entails, in order to ensure and respect it. Brown lamented that the total aid invested in education amounts to less than US$10 per child, which does not even cover a second-hand text book per child in Africa. He explained that IFEEd will serve as a guarantee-based loan agency and will allow for leveraging the current US$12 billion provided in aid for education to bring additional US$10 billion.

Noting that it is “unrealistic” to expect that the level of aid will increase, Daniel Fernan Gimenez, Permanent Mission of Norway, welcomed and expressed support for IFEEd. Helena Yánez Loza, Permanent Mission of Ecuador, noted that Ecuador increased its investment in education by 285% between 2006 and 2016, becoming the Latin American country that invests the most in education. She said the education system is now providing free and inclusive quality education. In order to promote quality education, she explained that Ecuador has increased its highest ranked teachers’ salary from about US$250 per month to about US$1,600 per month.

Sukhbold Sukhee, Permanent Representative of Mongolia, spoke about the government’s focus on integrating children with disabilities in the educational system. He presented measures that the government is successfully implementing to address challenges including the high drop out rate for boys in poor rural areas where the main occupation for men is herdsmen, and rural-urban migration that makes classrooms over-crowded, decreasing the quality of the education delivered.

Tarcila Rivera Zea, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (Peru), stressed that educational systems need to be based on human rights, gender equality, intergenerational exchange, and interculturality. She emphasized that the situation of the indigenous girls needs special focus because of high dropout rates. One of the causes of this, she reported, is sexual abuse by teachers, which has resulted in girls getting pregnant as early as 11 years old, and many cases of suicide. She underscored the need for indigenous communities to be allowed to manage their own educational systems, aligned with their culture, in order to protect themselves and their culture.

Jordan Naidoo, UNESCO, pointed out that one fifth of the world’s children and youth of school age are out of school. He underscored that education is not only a goal in its own right, but a tool for achieving all the other SDGs. He emphasized the need to train teachers and support them with the infrastructure and materials that they need in order to increase the quality of education worldwide. He called for ensuring coordination and complementarity among all the financing initiatives working on education.

Gopal Mitra, UNICEF, highlighted that one in ten children has a disability, and underlined the need to invest in capacity for gathering and analyzing disability-disaggregated data. He lamented that many countries experience a “big disconnect” between policy that supports children with disability, and actual implementation, especially with regard to infrastructure and teacher training. He called for creating disability-accessible schools, which he said would require only an additional 3% of budget. Mitra added that inclusive education is the basis for inclusive societies.

In the ensuing discussion, participants addressed issues related to, inter alia: reaching children in rural areas, where deficient water and sanitation infrastructure can lead to children’s deaths; integrating migrant and refugees children in national education systems; the right to education of children in both refugee and internally displaced (IDPs) camps; and the need to protect the right to education of children affected by conflict. [Event Programme] [The Learning Generation: Investing in education for a changing world’ (report of International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity)] [The 2017/8 Global Education Monitoring Report]

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