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UN General Assembly: How Theirworld campaigned for education as The Key to unlock big change

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From inspiring speakers at a major digital event to a new toolkit for activists, we ensured the message was carried to leaders and decision-makers.

Education is the key to a better future. That was the message Theirworld carried to the 75th United Nations General Assembly this week, against a backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and economic challenges.

Our campaigning - including a major digital event on Monday, September 21 - emphasised that education is the most important investment underpinning economic recovery, public health, civic participation and engagement in creating a better world.

Justin van Fleet, President of Theirworld and Executive Director of the Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education), said: “What we see in the news every day demonstrates why it’s important to invest more – not less – in education around the world. It has never been more important to build young people’s capacities for the future.

“Yet, as parents and teachers struggle to get children back to school and reduce the digital divide, education budgets are being cut across the board. Education should not be a casualty of Covid-19 but the foundation of a strategy to rebound and build back better.”

The Unlock Big Change event, hosted by Theirworld and GBC-Education, featured global leaders, business figures, innovators, changemakers and Theirworld Global Youth Ambassadors gathering online to find ways of working together to end the education crisis.

There were messages from UN chiefs, panel discussions, breakout sessions and networking in real time with leaders from NGOs, youth organisations, civil society, business, foundations, governments, international organisations and academia.

Unlock Big Change featured several fascinating and insightful panel sessions, which you can watch in the videos below.

Unlocking Education in Emergencies

A discussion on the situation of refugee education globally, innovations youth are driving forward and solutions to unlock education in emergencies. Featuring Annemiek Hoogenboom, Country Director, People's Postcode Lottery; Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management, European Commission; Emanuel “Boo Milton”, Creator, SparkBox; Yasmine Sherif, Director, Education Cannot Wait

Unlocking Skills for the Future

Exploring the future of work, the challenges faced by girls and women and the potential partnerships between the public and private sector. With Ousmane Ba, Global Youth Ambassador, Theirworld; Jude Kelly, Director, WOW; Kwasi Mitchell, Principal, Diversity & Inclusion Lead, Deloitte; Pia Wilson-Body, President, Intel Foundation.

Unlocking Early Childhood Education

The importance of the early years and identifying actions to ensure universal preschool is funded, accessible and equitable for all. With Alice Albright, CEO, Global Partnership for Education; Saima W. Hossain, Chairperson, Shuchona Foundation, Chairperson, Bangladesh National Advisory Committee for Autism; Peter Laugharn, President and CEO, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; Eden Tadesse, Global Youth Ambassador, Theirworld.

Unlocking Finance for Education

Education funding is at risk as government, international aid and philanthropic budgets are being cut. How can we unlock the funding necessary to achieve SDG4? Franz Fayot, Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs, Luxembourg; Mamta Murthi, Human Development Vice President, World Bank; Sarah Musau, Global Youth Ambassador, Theirworld; Baroness Liz Sugg, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Girls’ Education, United Kingdom.

Unlocking Big Change for Education

Education is the key to a better future. How can we ensure every child and young person has the opportunity of equitable, inclusive and quality education? A discussion, moderated by the BBC's Director of Creative Diversity June Sarpong, with Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, and Henrietta Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF.

There was also a session called Unlock Big Change: A RewirEd Talk - a conversation hosted by Dubai Cares between leading voices in education, youth and practitioners examining the greater purpose of education. You can watch it here.

Copy, paste and advocate with The Key

Covid-affected governments, aid agencies and businesses are facing recession, budget cuts and competing priorities. That's why, during the Unlock Big Change event, Theirworld and GBC-Education launched The Key - a one-stop shop to help everyone make a clear and robust case for education.

The free digital toolkit is crammed with messages, statistics, taking points and infographics about dozens of subjects where education plays a key role. The Key is simple to use. It lets you "copy, paste and advocate" - helping activists to prepare a speech, write an article, make a presentation or simply be informed.

What is IFFEd and how does it work?

During the event, Theirworld launched a video which explains the bold new International Finance Facility for Education and how it will help to get millions of children into school. You can watch it in the tweet below.

Kate Oliver - our Education Financing Policy and Advocacy Manager - also wrote a powerful blog about how "Now is the time for bold action to finance global education."

Sarah Brown tells BBC education crisis is 'solvable'

Also on Monday, Theirworld Chair Sarah Brown was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour about the global education crisis. She said governments need to work together to unlock something "big and dramatic" to help the millions of children who are not in school.

"The danger is that by the time we get to 2030, which is the goal the United Nations has set for education for all children, we'll have half of all young people in the world not on track to have even the most basic skills for employment, " she said. Asked whether Theirworld's mission to end the global education crisis was possible, she said: "Between climate change and under-investment in education, we've given ourselves quite a problem. But, I think, a solvable problem."

Listen to the interview.

Other education highlights from the UN General Assembly

In the run-up to the high-level UN meetings this week, Education Cannot Wait - the fund for education in emergencies - hosted an online event on The Future of Education attended by government ministers, UN agency chiefs, policymakers, teachers and students. It also featured Theirworld Global Youth Ambassador Ekema Miranda Ndolo from Cameroon.

Theirworld President Sarah Brown spoke about the charity's education programme on Lesvos and the REACT initiative launched by the Global Business Coalition for Education that matches the resources and skills of companies to educational needs.

Liverpool football star Mohamed Salah also took centre stage this week alongside young refugees to call for every child to access a quality education. He said: "We must make sure that all young people -- including refugees -- get an education. Now is the time to make sure refugee students don't get left behind. And with Covid-19, connected education is extremely important."

The Egyptian player is the first Ambassador for Instant Network Schools, set up by Vodafone Foundation and the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

Also this week, UNICEF and the European Union urged countries to prioritise schools in their reopening plans on Digital Cooperation Action Day at the UN General Assembly. A joint statement said: "Today, 875 million students remain affected. The consequences for their education, protection and well-being cannot be underestimated." Read the full statement.