Year in Review

The past year may yet prove to be the turning point in converting the promise of universal education into real opportunity for every child. From Malala’s inspirational speech at the United Nations to the calls to action from young people themselves in communities across the globe, there is a growing, insistent demand for our generation to finally deliver the right to education.

The Secretary-General’s vision of Global Education First is daily becoming ever more possible. Alongside young people, for the first time in history, business, governments, donors, multilateral agencies and individuals themselves, have all stepped-up efforts to accelerate progress to reach our goal: all children in school and learning.

World leaders convened important education meetings at the World Economic Forum, the World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings and the UN General Assembly. Promoted by the leadership of both President Kim of the World Bank and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and working with Irina Bokova of UNESCO, Tony Lake of UNICEF and Alice Albright of the Global Partnership for Education, partners have been challenged to answer one question: what will you do to accelerate progress on access and learning?

In an end of year call with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the inspiration for the Global Education First Initiative, I was able to report to him that in many countries, aspirations have turned into pledges – and pledges have started to turn into real results. We can be confident that from Haiti and the DRC to Pakistan and Yemen, backed up by the increased commitments of some aid agencies, such as USAID led by Raj Shah, millions more young people will soon have an opportunity to go to school. With greater coordination of our efforts in the coming year, even more children will find new places to learn.

The business community has also strengthened its resolve. The Global Business Coalition for Education continues to grow at a fast and encouraging rate with some of the world’s leading companies joining our ranks. And a new partnership with UNESCO, UNICEF and the UN Global Compact has developed a business case and framework for investing in education. Business leaders such as Hikmet Ersek of Western Union, Strive Masiyiwa of EcoNet Wireless, and Aliko Dangote of Dangote Industries have each recently pledged to do more to help us reach our goal. Just this week in London, Strive Masiyiwa and I co-convened online education entrepreneurs to develop a new solution to a deliver a global education platform. This followed an initial conference on technology and education organised by Laurene Powell Jobs in Silicon Valley earlier in the year.

Civil society has amplified its efforts on education, particularly putting an outstanding case for girls’ rights, in brilliant campaigns led by partners such as Girls Not Brides, Girl Rising and Plan International. We have focused attention on pressing issues and highlighted tragedies that cannot be left unaddressed if we are to reach our goal. From working with the Global March Against Child Labour to combat address the horrors of child labour to working with Girls Not Brides on forced marriage, our many partners, to their great credit, are on the front lines in the struggle for education for all.

I will not forget Baela Jamil’s presentation of over 1 million signatures from out-of-school children to the government of Pakistan during our Washington Civil Society Day. On Malala Day, we recognised seven young leaders by presenting them with Youth Courage Awards for their inspirational acts to champion education. On that day, as nearly 100 countries sent youth representatives to the United Nations, events also took place in every corner of the globe in solidarity with Malala and her commitment to universal education. Through Education International, the teachers of the world have made an increased impact on our campaigns to secure education for all with the launch of the United for Quality Education campaign on World Teachers’ Day and the commitment to campaigning throughout the next two years to deliver educational opportunity for the children they teach.

Like so many, I remain deeply troubled by the reality facing children and young people in Syria and neighbouring countries, and the poor prospects for them to continue their education. The global community is coming together to develop a unified response for education for refugee children. We will continue to assist, working with UNICEF, UNHCR and INEE and others, and put pressure where ever necessary to prioritise education in humanitarian crises. I am thankful to the Avaaz network for bringing over 30,000 people together to mobilise, in only thee days, the first $1 million to jumpstart these efforts. I am grateful to Western Union for allowing fee-free contributions to be made from over 300,000 locations globally in support of education for the children affected by the Syrian crisis.

From the start of 2014, we will have 730 days to reach our goal. In January, Pauline Rose’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report will update us on the state of education and will challenge us to do even more as her research reveals the still high numbers of children, particularly girls, denied basic educational opportunities. Our voices must be heard even more loudly and our efforts intensified in line with our shared vision. Governments must do more. Donors must do more. Business and faith leaders must do more. And the public must increase pressure on leaders to keep the promise of education for all. We must remember what this fight is about: it would be worth our efforts if just one young person, who is today out of school, gets their chance of education. But if we secure this basic right for 57 million children, the world will never be the same again. And the right to education, once won, can never be taken away.

We can become the first generation to develop all of the talent of all of our young people. Whatever successes we have together achieved in 2013 are only the beginning of an educational revolution that will allow every child the chance to develop his or her full potential. I look forward to working with all of you to put global education first in 2014. I thank you for all you have done to make the hopes and dreams of so many children a reality.

With my best wishes,


Rt. Honourable Gordon Brown, MP

United Nations Special Envoy for Education




Photo Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas