Barry Johnston, Associate Director of Advocacy, Malala Fund
Last weekend, the G7 leaders met in Italy. While the burgeoning Trudeau-Macron bromance and Trump’s golf cart jaunt provided some light relief, a more disheartening story unfolded behind the scenes: G7 leaders quietly shelved a much-anticipated report on education.
The release of the G7 Accountability Working Group Progress Report promised to be an important moment for global education. It would have been the first time the G7 prioritised the topic on their agenda — as they’ve done previously with health and hunger.
Previous progress and accountability reports have hardwired these issues into the G7 agenda. The education sector desperately needs this level of scrutiny and profile.
Funding for education has reached a global crisis: education currently receives less than half the money it requires. Without immediate and dramatic action, we can forget about getting anywhere near the SDG targets for education by 2030. G7 leaders had the opportunity to address the issue — but days before the summit when the report was due for publication, they stalled.
Education advocates refused to sit by as G7 leaders went back on their word. In just 48 hours, more than 27,000 Malala Fund supporters and allies in 134 countries mobilised and signed a letter calling on the G7 to #ReleaseTheReport.
They know what these leaders failed to acknowledge — that girls’ education is the best investment in the future peace and prosperity of our world. They wanted to know what the G7 has done and, more importantly, what it plans to do to ensure 12 years of education for every girl.
Despite this outcry, the summit came and went with no trace of the report. Worse, the G7 communique minimised the challenges we face by stating that “girls and women today are better educated than ever before.” More than 130 million out-of-school girls would beg to differ.
The G7 is ignoring yet another looming global crisis. The Education Commission warns that without intervention, the number of children denied an education would double by 2030. It is our responsibility to ensure that leaders keep their promises to out-of-school children, because their futures — and ours — depend on it.
So we’ll continue to call for publication of the G7 education progress report. But at the same time, we’re preparing for the next big opportunity.
This July, the G20 summit is convening in Hamburg, providing world leaders with another opportunity to commit to funding global education. Although the G7 and G20 have different roles, they both wield enormous power in shaping the global agenda — and these forums have neglected education for too long.
It’s time for a loud, clear, collective voice from the global education sector to say that education cannot be ignored. An investment in girls’ education is an investment in a healthier, safer, more prosperous future.
As Malala said, “We can gain peace, grow economies, improve our public health and the air that we breathe. Or we can lose another generation of girls.”