Recommendations for the future of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative


In September 2012, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, launched the Global Education First Initiative. To mark the one-year anniversary of the Initiative, the Education for All Global Monitoring Report has been asked to prepare an independent, light touch review. Today, we are publishing draft recommendations. This draft is intended to gather further feedback on the progress of the Initiative in its first year, and to identify ways for the Initiative to be most effective in the future. The GMR will present a final review and recommendations at the next meeting of GEFI’s Steering Committee.

The Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) was established by the United Nations Secretary-General at the UN General Assembly in September 2012, with three priorities: getting every child into school, improving the quality of education, and fostering global citizenship. After one year of the Initiative, the GMR’s review finds that education stakeholders broadly agree that it has provided much-needed ‘glue’ to bring together the multiple activities of the education community. The Learning for All Ministerial and Malala Day are two distinctive moments associated with GEFI which are commonly recognized as bringing attention to the sector at a time when its profile has been waning.


A large part of GEFI’s impact on the international stage is recognized as being due to the United Nations Secretary General’s endorsement of education, giving the sector international legitimacy at a moment when it was slipping down the agenda.  The Secretary-General’s commitment to education is further exemplified by his appointment of a UN Special Envoy for Education, the first time the sector has had such a representative.

Opinions converge over the key recommendations for GEFI’s coming years. There was an over-arching sentiment that, now the structures of the Initiative are in place, made up of an impressive network of partners united in their support for education, GEFI has huge potential to have a marked impact in the future. The draft recommendations identify three key opportunities where GEFI can make a difference in the next years, including defining and implementing concrete plans around ‘global citizenship’, building on the strengths of the Youth Advocacy Group, and developing concrete strategies for the involvement and commitments expected from its Champion Countries.

The way forward must build on the momentum experienced over the Initiative’s first year, and seize the huge opportunities it has before it to put Education First. The draft paper proposes four areas which GEFI can work on to build on this momentum. Firstly, the Initiative must now set a clear and simple agenda behind which all its actors can rally, drawing on the strength of its members. Secondly, the Secretariat should continue ensuring that it provides a neutral information-sharing hub for all its partners in order to enhance and pave the way for continued, smooth collaboration.

Thirdly, the recommendations suggest that GEFI continue to align itself directly with the United Nations Secretary-General, rather than with individual partners, in order to engage education in high-level events and with influential bodies, such as the G20, BRICS and post-2015 leaders. Lastly, the paper proposes recruiting additional UN Special Envoys for the sector, just as health has seven Special Envoys who help to promote UN initiatives in that sector. Malala has also been an important high-profile spokesperson for education over the past year. In the words of one respondent: ‘we need 10 more Malalas’.

The GMR’s review has consisted of an online survey which has received 162 responses to date, together with selected face-to-face or telephone interviews. If you would like to add your voice to this feedback, please complete the online survey; or send your comments to Kate Redman:



  1. The Initiative aims to raise the political profile of education, strengthen the global movement to achieve quality education and generate additional and sufficient funding through sustained advocacy efforts. Achieving gains in education will have an impact on all the Millennium Development Goals − from lower child and maternal mortality, to better health, higher incomes and more environmentally sustainable societies.

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