The High-level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York has begun – the core moment in the global follow up and review mechanism of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Five goals are on the agenda this year, including SDG 4 for the first time. This week, along with UIS, we released new projections showing how off track we are from achieving out education goal. This, we will be emphasizing this week in New York, is not just bad news for education, but also for all those working on the sustainable development agenda. If we do not achieve the education goal, the other goals will not be achieved either. This is a now-or-never moment.
Why education is key to sustainable development
Today we are launching a new six-part cartoon that highlights the links and synergies between education and many of the other sustainable development goals and calls for sectors to work together to achieve their aims.
We look at the links with those working to protect the planet, with those looking at building prosperity for all, at fostering equality between people, fighting for peace and building stronger communities in cities. We examine the importance of education for building professional capacity in other sectors, and we illustrate the importance of working together, in a multi-sectoral approach, to achieve all our goals.
Education gives us the key tools to take on the SDGs and achieve them.
Education can help with the shift to a more sustainable way of living.
Education shapes values and perspectives and is proven to be the best tool for climate change awareness. Schools can nurture a new generation of environmentally savvy citizens to support the transition to a prosperous and sustainable future.
Education also contributes to the development of skills that can reduce or stop unsustainable practices and has a key role to play in addressing environmental challenges. Education, especially of girls and women, is the most effective means of addressing population growth.
The way we educate people can determine whether our economy will be sustainable or not.
The skills we acquire throughout our lives can help us make the shift towards renewable energy, smart agriculture, forest rehabilitation, the design of resource-efficient cities and orienting higher education and research towards green innovation.
Education is a powerful enabler, and a key aspect, of social development.
What we learn can help us – and our children – live healthy lives. It can enhance gender equality by empowering vulnerable populations, a majority of whom are girls and women.
Some of the most explored cross-sectoral links are between education and health. These links work both ways. Children’s health determines their ability to learn, health infrastructure can be used to deliver education, and healthy teachers are indispensable to education sector functioning.
Education encourages political participation, inclusion, advocacy and democracy.
While education can contribute to conflict, it can also reduce or eliminate it. Education can play a vital role in peacebuilding and help address the alarming consequences of its neglect. Education initiatives, in particular driven by civil society organizations, can help marginalized populations gain access to justice.
City planners need to be educated to make sure fast urbanisation doesn’t penalise the poorest.
Urbanization is one of today’s defining demographic trends, and fast urbanisation is putting a strain on education systems. We calculated in our last report that 80 million more are expected to live in slums by 2030. But currently, the broad education sector is largely missing from key urban development discussions. It must be integrated into future urban planning so that the education needs and rights of all are met as urban populations change. Inviting education planners to the table in discussions around urban policies would help address inequalities by improving skills, reducing numbers in informal employment and helping make cities greener.
We need strong professional capacity at the top of all sectors if we’re to shift the agenda
To achieve success in many of the development goals, including SDG 8 on decent work, SDG 10 on cities and sustainable urbanisation or SDG 16 on peaceful societies, we need to address the acute shortage of professionals who can help bring new solutions and new ideas for the future. Social workers, for instance, who are at the forefront of dealing with rights violations, urban planners faced with huge informal settlements in Africa and Asia, and law enforcements officers and the judiciary who need to meet the needs of the estimated 4 billion people globally who lack access to justice.
We will not achieve any of our goals unless we work together
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls on us to develop holistic and integrated responses to the many social, economic and environmental challenges we face.
This means reaching out beyond traditional boundaries and creating effective, cross-sectoral partnerships. However, the notion of integrated planning, though part of the post-2015 development discourse, still exists mostly on paper.
Without strong political incentives and adequate financial backing, planning and implementation in most contexts will remain in siloes.
Of course, securing progress towards a sustainable future cannot take place over two weeks in New York. Perhaps the most important outcome for this year’s HLPF needs to be a strong statement by governments that every goal in the 2030 Agenda requires education to empower people with the knowledge, skills and values to live in dignity, build their lives and contribute to their societies.