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As leaders gather this year at the World Economic Forum, it’s time to prioritize the impact of investments in education on businesses, economies and beyond.
As all eyes turn to this week World Economic Forum At Davos, we call on world leaders and world-renowned businesses to place education at the heart of our global social and economic agenda.
Education is our investment in the future, our investment in sustainable economic growth and global security, our investment in the vast potential of our collective humanity.
To achieve our delivery goals equitable and quality education to every girl and boy on the planet – especially those caught up in armed conflict, forced displacement and other protracted crises – we need to activate global awareness and engagement, and create a value proposition that shows businesses , politicians and the general public what investing in quality education means for our world.
It means preschoolers can learn to read and write in safe environments. It means girls can become entrepreneurs and doctors – not child brides. This means boys can be teachers and lawyers – not soldiers.
This means that refugee children and adolescents displaced by conflict, climate change and other crises in hotspots like Bangladesh, Colombia, the sahel and Ukraine can continue his 12 years of study and become the leader of a peaceful and healthy society.
It means college and beyond, a smarter workforce, and greater socio-economic stability. It means ending poverty and hunger, establishing gender equality and promoting human rights for all.
Decipher the challenge
It is one of the most complex problems humanity has ever faced. When Education Can’t Wait (ECW) – the UN Global Fund for Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises – was established in 2016, an estimated 75 million children and young people affected by crisis have not had access safety, protection, hope and opportunity for a quality education. This number has risen to around 200 million in recent years as we see an increase in conflict, displacement, climate-related disasters and a deadly pandemic that has disrupted our progress to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
While a minority of people on the planet enjoy all the conveniences of modern life – and football teams sell for more than $5 billion – more than 617 million children and adolescents worldwide cannot read or do basic mathematics. That’s more than the total population of ECW’s three major donors – Germany, the UK and the US – combined.
Nevertheless, to date less than 3% of government stimulus packages have been allocated to education, and in low- and lower-middle-income countries the share is less than 1%. We can and must triple this public funding, following the example of the European Union which announced in 2019 that it would increase education expenditure at 10% of humanitarian aid.
Government aid alone is not enough
The private sector, corporations and philanthropic foundations such as The LEGO Foundation, Dubai Cares, Verizon and Porticus are already activating major investments in space.
We need to attract more funds from industries closely related to education – like Google, CISCO and Microsoft – and of those who have a vested interest in ensuring global economic stability and resilience, such as the Jacobs Foundation, Western Union and Hilton Foundations of this world.
As we embrace the spirit of Davos – “demonstrate entrepreneurial spirit in the global public interest while adhering to the highest standards of governance” – it is clear that this is a global issue that will not only impact on the rights and life trajectories of the world’s most vulnerable children, it will impact business, disrupt global socio-economic stability and affect us all if we do not act immediately with decisive action and l collective humanity in the foreground.
Education Cannot Wait has already mobilized more than US$1 billion in a few years and reached approximately 5 million childrenbut that’s just not enough.
Over the next three years, with the support of donors, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and individuals, we need to mobilize at least an additional $1.5 billion. This must be done with the direction of the G7the resources and know-how of the private sector partners presented this year World Economic Forumand the enhanced commitments that will make headlines this year Transforming Education Summitconvened by the UN Secretary General.
This will enable ECW and its strategic partners to immediately and effectively meet the educational needs of at least 10 million children and adolescents, including 6 million girls.
Think about the return on investment. This equates to only $150 per child. If each of the worlds fortune 500 companies only contributed US$15 million, we were able to exceed our goals and reach 100,000 children per donation! That’s 50 million more children receiving an education, 50 million more children breaking through the barriers of hunger and poverty, 50 million more opportunities to provide certainty in the face of very uncertain economy.
Think about the future. If you could sustain your business for the next 30 years with such a simple investment, wouldn’t you? Investing in education is good for the bottom line. With increased security and economic opportunity in the Global South, we are opening up new markets, increasing economic resilience and building a more prosperous world.
Consider inheritance. For every $1 spent on girls’ education, we generate about $2.80 in return. Ensuring that girls complete secondary education could increase the GDP of developing countries by 10% over the next decade.
Think of scale. For every dollar raised, ECW and its strategic partners raise approximately one dollar. This increases the impact exponentially.
Think about our place in history. Now is the time to transform education for those most left behind. Please Join us ensuring that every girl and boy – no matter who or where they are – has the opportunity to go to school, learn, grow and realize their potential not just for a day, but for a lifetime.