The first-ever International Day of Education was celebrated on 24 January 2019, to recognize that inclusive and quality education is a human right and a crucial component to building a world free of poverty, achieving gender equality, and creating a better world. It is also the focus of the fourth Sustainable Development Goal, “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” To honor this commemoration, a panel discussion on Education for Peace and Development was held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
The speakers discussed the opportunities and challenges faced in achieving SDG 4 in their respective programs and countries and highlighted the concept of education as a human right and a driver for peace and development. The event was attended by over 60 individuals, including representatives of Member States.
The discussion was organized by the UNESCO Geneva Liaison Office, with the support of co-sponsoring Member States and partner organizations, including Arigatou International – Geneva. The panel was moderated by Mr. Sangheon Lee, Director of the Employment Department, ILO, and the welcome remarks were delivered by Mr. Abdulaziz Almuzaini, Director of the UNESCO Geneva Liaison Office.
The subsequent speakers included: H.E. Mr. Hans Brattskar, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations Office at Geneva; H.E. Mr. Omar Zniber, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations Office in Geneva; H.E. Mr. Carl Hallergard, Ambassador, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to the United Nations Office in Geneva; H.E. Mr. Tahir Hussain Andrabi, Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations Office in Geneva; Ms. Afshan Khan, Director for Europe and Central Asia Region and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe, UNICEF; and Ms. Maria Lucia Uribe, Director, Arigatou International – Geneva.
“I believe that today’s gathering was another testimony to our commitment to education as a most powerful force in our hands to ensure significant improvements in peace, human rights, decent work, development, and international cooperation”, said Mr. Almuzaini, whilst opening the floor to discussion.
The speakers then each contributed unique perspectives which supported the concept of education as a right and as a fundamental tenant of peace and development. H.E. Mr. Carl Hallergard began by speaking about the importance of harnessing the power of education against the rise of extremism and violence, and the role of student exchanges as a way of opening the minds and hearts of young people between countries and cultures, referring to the European Union’s flagship program, Erasmus. H.E. Tahir Hussain Andrabi then provided another perspective, discussing the critical and everyday importance of education: “each day ought to be a day of education throughout our lives”, he stated, citing the notion that education must occur “from cradle to grave”, and advocating for the power of education to lift people out of poverty.
Ms. Afshan Khan contributed to the discussion by shedding light on the subject of marginalized children, emphasizing the importance of investing in quality education for children with disabilities, which she argued would teach all children at a young age the values of tolerance and inclusion.
In turn, Ms. Maria Lucia Uribe laid emphasis on the fact that violence in schools themselves can be an obstacle to achieving quality education: “720 million school-age children live in countries where corporal punishment in school is still allowed”, she stated, whilst referring to Arigatou International’s Learning to Live Together Programme as an effective tool to building safer schools for quality education.
After the contributions from the other panelists, the event ended with a general consensus that although much has been achieved in improving access to and quality of education in past years, there remain many obstacles to achieving SDG 4 to be addressed in the coming years.
Arigatou International – Geneva would like to thank the UNESCO Geneva Liaison Office, the sponsoring Member States, and the convening organizations for their collaboration and support.
Photo: UNESCO Twitter