Speech by Director-General for International Cooperation at Global Education Forum Meeting

Speech by Kitty van der Heijden, Director-General for International Cooperation, at the Global Education Forum Meeting, 10 September 2020.

Your Excellencies, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I am grateful to be able to talk to you at this second meeting of the Global Education Forum. Minister Kaag regrets not being with you today, because of an unexpected parliamentary obligation.

This meeting is very timely. COVID-19 has forced us to rethink the way we do things, including the way we work and how we define our priorities. We don’t yet know where all this will lead.

What we do know however is that − in almost all first responses to the pandemic − education did not receive the attention it deserved. This was wrong: if there is one thing in life that helps us prepare for an uncertain future, then it is education.

Education not only offers young people ways to make sense of the world. It also provides the tools for a better future. It offers choices that can be made from a position of strength, with knowledge and skills, especially for the most vulnerable. Indeed, we have to save their future!

Today, I would like to briefly emphasize three things:

The importance of the ‘Save Our Future’ initiative.

The need for this Global Education Forum.

And the importance of new solutions, like innovative financing.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I applaud the work that has been done so far by the various teams and the Education Commission; the White Paper is certainly heading in the right direction!

But it cannot be an analysis of all the problems this world is facing; education needs are universal, I know, but the White Paper should have more focus on what the paper is meant to be: a response to the education crisis caused by COVID-19 in the poorest countries, and within that a focus on those children that are most in need.

The world was already behind schedule in achieving SDG 4. The COVID crisis compounds this problem: both directly and through its knock-on effects. The loss of parents’ income, for instance, will lead many of them to keep their children at home, rather than in school – especially girls.

This brings me to my second point: there is undoubtedly a need for better international cooperation and complementarity, especially when it comes to global action on increased funding for education. I believe that the Global Education Forum can and should play an important role here, working alongside organisations like UNESCO.

I am very hopeful that, today, we can make a start by supporting ‘Save Our Future’ and developing a joint narrative for the pivotal importance of education. Coordinating aid and investment efforts in this sector is a necessary second step, and pooling our resources is the third. I realize this is easier said than done. But I believe that with ambition, with vision, and with drive, we can do it.

This is why a Global Action Plan for Education matters so much.

This brings me to my third topic: the need for innovative financing.

This is essential, because achieving SDG 4 is almost unthinkable without it. The ‘business as usual’ of grants and contributions simply will not generate the funding we need to achieve the goals the international community has set for itself. It is an old problem, but new thinking offers new solutions.

The Netherlands remains a strong supporter of the International Finance Facility for Education, or IFFEd, because it offers the type of multiplier we need to keep the goal of achieving SDG 4 by 2030 within reach, however difficult that may seem in this new reality.

I urge you to do the same, and look at innovative financing mechanisms; that could be IFFEd or any other instrument; as long as it has the same power of leveraging funds that otherwise would not go to education.

It is hard to imagine a sector with a greater positive impact than education; it is imperative to “Save the Future” of the next generation!

Thank you.