Leaders Promises Are More Than Words

Madge Thomas, Deputy Director, Global Policy & Advocacy, Global Citizen

Global Citizen’s education accountability report shows that your commitment to Education in Emergencies is working

Many wonder what happens after the bright lights fade on a Global Citizen event. With millions gathered around the world to participate- all eager for meaningful change- it’s easy to wonder if our efforts can really make a difference.

Where and when does the change we’ve heard promised actually occur?

Global Citizen has been running campaigns on global access to education since 2013 and holding leaders accountable for their promises and commitments to the world’s children that are made on our stage or platform.

In total, global citizens have taken over 1.6 million actions on education over the years, which have translated into 57 commitments and announcements resulting in $2.4 billion in funds committed and nearly 60 million lives impacted in real and lasting ways.

Through your actions and persistence, CEOs and Heads of State – the “big guys” – have heard global citizens’ voices. These are the moments when change happens.

Last year, we ran a series of actions in support of the Education Cannot Wait fund, both ahead of the May 2016 World Humanitarian Summit and- later in the year- targeting Denmark, and with the help of Rihanna, France and Canada.

Hopes and expectations were high when Rihanna tweeted at these busy world leaders to support Education Cannot Wait, and all three of these leaders committed funding at the Global Citizen festivals in both New York and Mumbai.

But how do we ensure they stay true to their word?

Accountability Matters

While the excitement surrounding these actions is palpable in the moment, it’s only right we keep asking ‘what happens next?’. What happens when the roar of the crowd fades- when we go back to our offices and heads of state & CEOs leave the stage?

It’s for this reason that Global Citizen has just released its first-ever education accountability report.

This report demonstrates our policy to follow up on all those who commit on-stage and looks at what happens after the festival. The results are in, and they prove the true power of Global Citizens’ coming together and holding world leaders to their promises.

This report shows the progress made against on-stage commitments, alongside evidence supporting announcements on education trends and future promises. It also consolidates the actions and commitments global citizens have taken in support of focused funds and mechanisms such as Education Cannot Wait (ECW).

The 243,655 actions of global citizens have already produced real, life-changing results that show just how important these on-stage commitments are:

  • 15 new and reaffirmed commitments to Education Cannot Wait and education in emergencies since 2012- 12 of these are on track
  • 9 pledges worth $113.7 million to Education Cannot Wait
  • 7 have already been actualized resulting in $72.8 million deposited to ECW
  • $100 million more committed from the Global Business Coalition for Education in “financial and relevant in-kind donations.”

Making Progress

There are a few main reasons to why we have had so much success with creating and tracking the progress of these commitments: First, our hardworking partners on the ground, and secondly- the passionate people who have called more citizens to action.

Muzoon Almellehan- a Syrian refugee and UNICEF’s youngest Goodwill Ambassador- spoke onstage at GC’s festival in Hamburg this year to a wrapt audience.

She spoke about how, in a world of escalating crises and extremism, the Education Cannot Wait fund is crucial to support young people and ensure they are equipped with the learning they need to build a brighter future. This incredible young woman carried the voices of Global Citizens everywhere to heads of state, CEOs, and powerful people around the world, calling out the need to immediately pledge support for education in emergencies.

“We are louder together. Let’s continue this work until every child, everywhere can go to school.”  Muzoon Almellehan

Advocacy by Muzoon, Salma Hayek and Queen Rania has helped to show the importance and impact that education can have not only on communities, countries and economies, but also on individuals trying to make a better life for their families anywhere.

This level of accountability and advocacy is also critical for keeping countries on track and motivated, encouraging them to make good on promises made to the world’s conflict and crises-affected children.

At the Global Partnership for Education’s High Level Reception before the festival in Hamburg, Muzoon also spoke to the impact that education has had on her life as a refugee. She acknowledged its central role in giving her the “strength to face challenges and acknowledge…my future.”

Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of the board of the Global Partnership for Education, responded with a recognition of the need to fund Education Cannot Wait and a call to action. “Muzoon, your courage gives us strength and renews our determination to make a difference. I’m glad that the world will step forward and say we do need Education Cannot Wait to make a real difference for children, like the Syrian children’.

Later during the festival, Demi Lovato and Muzoon appeared together onstage to reiterate the importance of funding Education Cannot Wait and the genuine impact it is having on children in emergencies. “When I was forced to flee my home, education gave me hope to move forward…,” the 19 year old Syrian refugee and activist stated.

The Road Ahead

There is nothing more powerful than hope. And the international community currently has the ability and the power to provide it. Now is the time to speak up and stand up for the right to education for all, especially those in emergencies.

It may seem like the “big guys” on stage are the ones with the power to make change, but in reality, they are listening to you. Now is the time to stand together and tell the Heads of State, CEOs, and all of the other “big guys” that it is time to take responsibility for your promises.

Together, we can work to make sure those same promises are kept, long after each event.


Children on the Move

Mr. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF

Around the world today, there is a growing global ‘movement’ of children and adolescents – but not the kind of movement that generates many ‘likes’ on social media.

It is a movement made up of 50 million children on the move.

More than half of them have been forcibly displaced by conflict. Some are escaping violence and persecution. Others are searching for a way out of crushing poverty or the intensifying impact of climate change. Some have experienced the compounded harm of all of these horrors and hardships.

All are vulnerable: to the dangers of the journey itself, all too often deadly; to smugglers and traffickers who prey on these children for profit; to being detained or deported; to hunger, malnourishment, disease; to discrimination, xenophobia and violence; and to a gaping absence of opportunity.

“In 2015–16 alone, about 300,000 unaccompanied children sought asylum in 80 countries.”

Safe channels

Children and adolescents travelling without their families are the most vulnerable to violence, exploitation and trafficking. In 2015–16 alone, about 300,000 unaccompanied children sought asylum in 80 countries – just a fraction of the total number of child refugees and migrants travelling on their own.

This movement of children on the move will grow unless we do more to confront and overcome the root causes that drive so many from their homes. Most fundamentally, the protracted conflicts that have displaced so many millions of people must be resolved, and the political, economic and environmental forces that disadvantage millions more must be confronted.

But success will not come overnight – and these children need help today.

Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF

Broadly, that means creating safe and legal channels for children to safely migrate and seek refuge, which can help keep them out of the reach of smugglers and traffickers. It means finding alternatives to detention, where they are particularly vulnerable to harm. It means keeping families together and giving children legal status. And it means challenging xenophobia and discrimination and other barriers that prevent them from accessing health and other services.

Some governments are already taking action. Italy recently enacted the first comprehensive law to protect unaccompanied children. The European Union recently adopted new policy guidance to protect migrant and refugee children, including appointing guardians for unaccompanied children and improving data collection to monitor the situation and safety of children on the move.These practical measures provide a model for all countries to protect uprooted children’s lives and also their well-being. But we must also take steps to protect their futures – by investing in their education.

Uprooted children leave behind so much more than their homes: family, friends, treasured toys and the ordinary routines of childhood. All too often, they also leave behind their education – and a better chance to reach their full potential.

Today, only half of primary school-aged refugee children are enrolled in school. Secondary school enrolment of refugee children is less than 25 per cent. Refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than their non-refugee peers.

Education in emergencies

If the lens widens to include all children affected by conflicts and emergencies, the numbers are commensurately alarming. An estimated 25 million children living in conflict zones are out of school. Many have never seen the inside of a classroom.

Children do not need education even in emergencies; they need education especially in emergencies. Without an education, how will these children gain the knowledge and skills they need to chart their own futures – and to someday build a more peaceful future for their societies? And how can we hope to achieve any of our development goals when we are not providing children with the tools they need to carry progress forward as adults – essential to sustainable development?

“An estimated 25 million children living in conflict zones are out of school. Many have never seen the inside of a classroom.”

And yet, education in emergencies is severely underfunded. Since 2010, less than two per cent of humanitarian funding has been spent on education – a gap of $8.5 billion. As the world comes together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals – and to fulfil their promise to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education” for all – we need to fill this gap.

New global funds to secure stable funding for education in emergencies, as do Education Cannot Wait and new funding mechanisms to support it, are a step in the right direction.

For whether a refugee or migrant, a child is a child. And every child has the right to an education. Their future – and our own – depend on it.

This piece appears in ‘G20: Germany – The Hamburg Summit 2017′, a publication produced by the G7/G20 Group at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs featuring contributions by Heads of State and other high-level participants in the G20 Summit. Read more.