Reflections on the UN General Assembly
I’ve reached the end of my first High Level Week of the UN General Assembly as CEO of Plan International UK. I leave New York feeling hopeful and motivated by the partnership and collaboration I witnessed, inspired by calls by young advocates for global leaders to act.
This year, Plan International’s core aim was to draw global attention to the effect crises, including climate change, are having on the lives of girls.
Our message to world leaders was simple: addressing gender inequality – particularly through education – is essential. The world must come together to put girls’ rights at the forefront of the international agenda.
We weren’t the only ones making this call. I was delighted to attend the Education Cannot Wait (ECW) event, ‘Accelerating the SDGs through Quality Education’.
Opening the event, Gordon Brown stated: “hope dies if young people don't get the opportunity to be educated.” He then called for action to mobilise $1.8 billion by 2021 to deliver quality education for nearly nine million children affected by conflicts, displacement and natural disasters.
This is clearly a very ambitious goal. But with the commitment and drive shown in the room, I have no doubt that it can be achieved.
I was particularly inspired by Zaynab, a young refugee from Yemen who represented Plan International at the event.
Zaynab told participants how her life changed when the revolution began in 2011. She recalled the difficulty of going to school during conflict, whilst many of her classmates stayed at home out of fear.
She told world leaders: "No girl should fear for her life while going to school. We need action, not promises."
And it seems they were listening. Together, governments and the private sector, including Norway, Ireland, the USA, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and the Lego Foundation, made further pledges to bring the total commitments to $205 million.
The UK Government announced £515 million for global education, building on the £85 million pledge for the Education Cannot Wait Fund announced at the G7.
This money will provide vital schooling to millions of girls whose lives have been torn apart by conflict and disaster. Crucially, a proportion of the money has been committed to the Sahel region of Africa, which is one of the worst places in the world for girls seeking an education.
Plan International UK will now work tirelessly to ensure these funds reach the most marginalised girls.
It's clear momentum is growing, and it’s not a moment too soon.
With a decade to go until the SDG deadline, we now have an unparalleled opportunity to work together to maintain this progress. Together, we must make sure no girl is left behind.
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