Kathmandu, Nepal — The upcoming education summit, part of the UN Secretary-General’s ambitious agenda, could indeed bring accountability and participation to the inevitably new ways of education in the future.

With scorching temperatures, wildfires and floods ravaging our planet, millions of people are realizing that we will all pay a high price for climate inaction.

The current climate crisis is compounding another emergency that continues to affect us all, the public health crisis laid bare by the Covid pandemic.

Against the background of this gloomy scenario, the international community cannot abandon its responsibilities not only to strengthen the global education system, but also from the moral obligation to review and reimagine it.

While it is easy to criticize the UN as a system unable to effectively address these multidimensional challenges, we cannot help but commend Secretary-General António Guterres for his far-sighted vision as outlined in his global plan, Our Common Agenda.

It is a bold statement that contains many proposals, including the ambitious goal of reimagining global education.

In this context, in September the UN will hold the most important forum to discuss how education can be the thread that can give the world’s citizens the right tools to thrive on a truly sustainable and just planet.

The Education Transformation Summit to be held at the United Nations on September 19 should be seen as a stand-alone event, while it should be the start of an ambitious global brainstorming session. It’s also the culmination of several other major developments over the past few years.

In 2015, the Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action provided a vision for the implementation of SDG 4, a global sustainable goal focused on inclusive and quality education.

We know how severe the impact of the pandemic has been on learners around the world, especially in developing and emerging countries.

Faced with these challenges, as global headlines focused on the public health emergency and futile attempts to negotiate a breakthrough climate change agreement at COP 26, few noticed the international community trying to take action.

In November 2021, it convened in Paris for the high-level segment of the World Education Summit hosted by UNESCO and the Government of France. The resulting Paris Declaration, which built on the work of the previous summit, the Extraordinary Session of the Global Education Meeting (2020 GEM) held in October 2020, made a clear call for increased funding and a strengthening of the global multilateral system of cooperation.

The fact that our attention has been completely focused on other existential crises should not prevent us from reflecting on how the global media has neglected such events and, as a consequence, how little discussion there is about the future of education.

I’m not just talking about discussions between professionals in the field, but also debates involving faculty and students. The upcoming Education Transformation Summit will try to reverse this lack of focus and general low engagement of people.

The secretariat of the event, organized by UNESCO, one of the agencies in the UN system that lacks financial support but still proves true value for money, is doing its best to include a global discussion on what the future of education should be.

It is in this context that UNESCO has created an interactive center of knowledge and debate, the so-called Hub, which will hopefully become a permanent global platform for discussion on education worldwide.

Imagine a sort of civic forum where experts, students, parents and politicians can share their best practices and voice their opinions on how to implement the decisions that will be made in September.

It is also very positive that before the summit in Paris at the end of June, some of the foundations for the September meeting were laid out, especially because young people also had the opportunity to speak and share their views.

This is not the first time that youth have been involved, but the full participation of the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth in the preparation of the Education Transformation Summit could be a turning point, moving from simple and symbolic interactions to real shared power with youth.

That is why the existence of a special process in the preparation of a youth-oriented summit is extremely important and welcome, not only because it will lead to a special declaration, but because it can potentially become a space where young people can make their voice and opinion heard. constantly.

Let us not forget that the ongoing preparation was important in bringing to life the results of the document Rethinking Our Future Together: A New Social Contract for Education, which was developed over two years by the International Commission on the Future of Education, a body chaired by President Salle-Work. Zeude is from Ethiopia and published in 2021.

This is truly transformative because the title itself is in line with Secretary-General Guterres’ desired vision of a new social contract.

The new social contract in education does require a rethinking of the field of learning and its established, but now outdated, goals. According to this report, education must become a holistic tool for creating personal choice and sustainable and equitable development.

For example, education for sustainable development and lifelong learning together with global citizenship should not be seen as “nice” but difficult additions.

Today’s challenges, the report explains, must focus on “reimagining education” and the knowledge it provides must be “grounded in social, economic and environmental justice.”

Understandably, Guterres intends the September summit to be the starting point for a longer conversation that will build on the insights and knowledge gained over the past few years.

Governance of the global education system will also take center stage, and through this we will have the opportunity to find creative ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago to include people, especially young people.

Regardless of the efforts now being made to raise awareness and participation at the Summit, regardless of how inclusive the Youth Process will be, there is still a long way to go before creating spaces where people on the ground can truly participate.

Too few are aware of the existence of the Global Mechanism for Education Cooperation under the leadership of the SDG4-Education 2030 High Level Steering Committee, which also includes representatives of youth, teachers and NGOs.

While there is no doubt that such an inclusive format is innovative in its own right, future challenges require a much more accessible and holistic organization.

The existence of a global accountability mechanism was one of the key points discussed and raised during the youth consultations during the previous summit in Paris.