As leaders gather this year at the World Economic Forum, it’s time to prioritize the impact of investments in education on businesses, economies and beyond.
As all eyes turn to this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, we call on world leaders and global corporations to put education at the heart of our global social and economic agenda.
Education is our investment in the future, our investment in sustainable economic growth and global security, our investment in the vast potential of our collective humanity.
To achieve our goals of providing equitable and quality education to every girl and boy on the planet – especially those caught up in armed conflict, forced displacement and other protracted crises – we must activate an awareness and a global engagement, and create a value proposition that shows businesses, politicians and the general public just how much an investment in quality education means to our world.
This means that preschoolers can learn to read and write in safe environments. This means girls can become entrepreneurs and doctors, not child brides. This means boys can be teachers and lawyers – not soldiers.
This means that refugee children and adolescents displaced by conflict, climate change and other crises in hotspots like Bangladesh, Colombia, the Sahel and Ukraine can continue their education for up to 12 years and become the leaders of a peaceful and healthy society.
It means college and beyond, a smarter workforce, and greater socio-economic stability. It means ending poverty and hunger, establishing gender equality and promoting human rights for all.
Decipher the challenge
It is one of the most complex problems humanity has ever faced. When Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the UN global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises – was established in 2016, around 75 million children and young people affected by crisis lacked access to safety, protection, hope and the opportunity for a quality education. That number has risen to around 200 million in recent years as we witness an increase in conflict, displacement, climate-related disasters and a deadly pandemic that has upended our progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
While a minority of people on the planet enjoy all the comforts of modern life – and football teams sell for over $5 billion – more than 617 million children and teenagers around the world cannot read or do basic calculations. That’s more than the total population of ECW’s three major donors – Germany, the UK and the US – combined.
Nevertheless, to date less than 3% of government stimulus packages have been allocated to education, and in low- and lower-middle-income countries the share is less than 1%. We can and must triple this government funding, following the example of the European Union which announced in 2019 that it would increase spending on education to 10% of humanitarian aid.
Government aid alone is not enough
The private sector, corporations and philanthropic foundations like the LEGO Foundation, Dubai Cares, Verizon and Porticus are already activating significant investments in space.
We need to attract more funding from industries closely tied to education – like Google, CISCO and Microsoft – and those with a vested interest in ensuring global economic stability and resilience, like the Jacobs Foundation, Western Union and Foundations. Hilton of this world. .
As we embrace the spirit of Davos – “exercising an entrepreneurial spirit in the global public interest while upholding the highest standards of governance” – it is clear that this is a problem that will not only impact the rights and life trajectories of the most vulnerable children, it will impact business bottom lines, disrupt global socio-economic stability and affect us all if we do not act immediately with decisive action and collective humanity at the forefront.
Education Can’t Wait has already mobilized over US$1 billion in a few years and reached around 5 million children, but it’s just not enough.
Over the next three years, with the support of donors, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and individuals, we need to mobilize at least an additional $1.5 billion. This must happen with the leadership of the G7, the resources and expertise of private sector partners showcased at this year’s World Economic Forum, and the strengthened commitments that will make headlines at this year’s Transforming Education Summit. year, convened by the UN Secretary-General.
This will enable ECW and its strategic partners to immediately and effectively meet the educational needs of at least 10 million children and adolescents, including 6 million girls.
Think about the return on investment. This equates to only $150 per child. If each of the Fortune 500 companies in the world donated just US$15 million, we could exceed our goals and reach 100,000 children per donation! That’s 50 million more children receiving an education, 50 million more children breaking through the barriers of hunger and poverty, 50 million more opportunities to provide certainty in the face of very uncertain economy.
Think about the future. If you could sustain your business for the next 30 years with such a simple investment, wouldn’t you? Investing in education is good for the bottom line. With increased security and economic opportunity in the Global South, we are opening up new markets, increasing economic resilience and building a more prosperous world.
Consider inheritance. For every dollar spent on girls’ education, we generate approximately $2.80 in return. Ensuring that girls complete secondary education could increase the GDP of developing countries by 10% over the next decade.
Think of scale. For every dollar raised, ECW and its strategic partners raise approximately one dollar. This increases the impact exponentially.
Think about our place in history. Now is the time to transform education for those most left behind. Please join us in ensuring that every girl and boy – no matter who or where they are – has the opportunity to go to school, learn, grow and fulfill their potential not only for a day, but for a lifetime.