Prime minister of Norway: We can make poverty history

We cannot sit back and watch as millions of children and young people are deprived of their right to education. This will be my main message at the Global Citizen Festival in New York’s Central Park on Saturday night.

The same weekend, I will be joining other leaders at the United Nations to adopt the new global agenda for sustainable development. The main objective of the new agenda is to put an end to extreme poverty by 2030.

Education is a human right. It is something young people aspire to all over the world. In my view, it is the best way of providing young people with the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty.

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This is why I am especially pleased with the wording of the fourth Global Goal: to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Adopting this goal will commit the world to an ambitious agenda for education, built on a firm foundation of early learning. We must do all we can to deliver this vision. We must make sure that every child is able to get 12 years of free, safe, quality education, of which at least nine years are compulsory.

Education is a human right. ... It is the best way of providing young people with the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty.'

Our efforts must focus on the children and young people who are poorest and hardest to reach, particularly girls. This will bring about significant progress in the fields of health, gender equality, employment, economic development and poverty eradication.

Now that we have reached the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, 50 million more children and 40 million more teenagers are in school than was the case at the start of the millennium. It is not acceptable, however, that 250 million children in the fourth grade have not learnt basic skills. We must invest in quality, especially when it comes to educating teachers, so that every child can fulfil his or her full potential.

The gap in education funding is vast. Reaching the new goals will require concerted efforts and major investments. National governments must lead the way. Innovative partnerships, including partnerships with the private sector, will play an important part. A crucial outcome of the Oslo summit on education in July was the launch of the International Commission on the Financing of Global Education Opportunities, which was welcomed by the UN Secretary-General. 

Norway will do its part. We are doubling our support for education for development in the period 2013–2017.

At the same time, we are stepping up our efforts in other areas that are important for keeping girls in school, such as access to clean water and sanitation..

History will not judge us kindly if we fail to realise the right of all children and young people to education, if we fail to give them the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty. All stakeholders must step up their efforts and increase their support for education.

It is our duty to help to turn the dreams and aspirations of millions of young people into reality. Let’s get to work now.