The International High Level Strategic Meeting on Education was held on 29 April 2013 in Doha, Qatar, sending a message of hope since the “Educate A Child” initiative (EAC) helped UNICEF keep 250,000 children from Syria, victims of the local armed conflicts, in school and that it plans to implement educational programs in other countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The Meeting was an initiative of HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, wife of the Emir of Qatar and UNESCO’s Special Envoy on Education, and was held on 28, 29 and 30 April. The purpose of the Meeting was to investigate policies and methods that will reinforce the efforts to approach out of school children, so as to incorporate them into the educational system. One of the UN Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015 is to achieve universal primary education. Sheikha Moza undertook important initiatives in this direction.
United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education appointed by UN Secretary–General and former United Kingdom Prime Minster, Mr. Gordon Brown, was an official guest at the Meeting. UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Mrs. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, was invited to participate from Greece. Mrs. Irina Bokova, Director -General of UNESCO, Ministers of Education from 17 countries, experts, NGO representatives, heads of organizations etc, also participated in the meeting.
The “Educate A Child” initiative was announced by HH Sheikha Moza last November in an international conference held at UNESCO, with the aim of reducing the number of children who have been deprived of their educational birthright.
During the Meeting, a series of ready to launch programs was announced, so that thousands of children living in Pakistan can go to school and these programs in combination with the 9 agreements signed at the end of the Meeting, will contribute to the activation of a global system for monitoring and assessing the parameters of the problem.
Sheikha Moza talking in a closed session with the Ministers of Education and important personalities from international organizations, expressed her concern and consternation at the possibility that the global community will not be able to achieve the target of providing education to all children worldwide. In this effort she set as a priority 17 countries in which it is estimated that 60% of children do not have access to education, in other words 37 million out of the 61 million children worldwide are excluded from schools.
Specifically Sheikha Moza said: ”Everyone here was invited to the Meeting because they hold a high level position and have the ability to influence policies and promote change. The political will of 17 countries represented here today, the knowledge of experts and the engagement of all persons present can have a real impact in changing dynamics for out of school children and achieving the UN Millennium Development Target on Education. A lot of work has been done to identify obstacles and difficulties in providing universal primary education to the children around the world. The ”Education for All” talks held 10 days ago in Washington shed light on the problems and drew substantial conclusions. Therefore the 17 countries that are represented in Doha today will manage to extend this knowledge and experience even further. Nobody can face this global challenge on education alone. What we hope will result from our Meeting is collective and innovative action. I hope to see alliances forged, collaboration built amongst different sectors of entrepreneurship, economy, education, health, ensuring rules of healthy living and eating. This is a meeting that gives us the opportunity to learn from each other, to investigate how we can apply new and innovative approaches.”
In the Opening Ceremony of the event, Mr. Gordon Brown spoke movingly about the efforts of EAC and urged partners to contribute to the program’s implementation. “No initiative has accomplished more than the EAC initiative for out of school children in such a small period of time, and in spite of everything that we are doing there is still a state of emergency in education” Mr. Brown said.
During the Meeting, Ministers and other high level staff from International organizations, together with leading personalities from civil society and the private sector exchanged views with respect to the challenges on providing education to out of school children in countries selected by EAC. The participants shared ideas and implementation plans and discussed what it would take to achieve the 2nd UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG 2). Special importance was attached to the human and social cost of children remaining out of school, from their lack of education and how large the benefits of their education would be. Speakers from Asia, Eastern, Central and Western Africa, Latin America and countries of the Middle East talked exhaustively about factors that kept children out of school rapid urbanization and poverty as well as the manners and necessary means that would solve this major problem. Finally, participants confirmed their intention to work together, as a part of the coordinated global effort to step up international action so that the number of children out of school falls at a faster pace than presently.
Sheikha Moza signed the UNESCO agreement to support the initiatives of the UN Secretary General for Universal Education, as well as quite a number of solidarity memoranda with many representatives from organisations and institutions of the private sector for supporting the purposes of EAC.