The View from Davos

By Sarah Brown, Executive Chair, Global Business Coalition for Education
This year’s development topics at the Davos World Economic Forum covered globalization, the widening equity gap, education and economic investment in girls and women, and the usual corporate discussions ranging from infrastructure to national security. All subjects affect who gets to go to school and who gets to learn both life skills and employability skills.
Universal education was the dominant theme at the UN Foundation lunch on investment in girls with a strong pledge from the new Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg,  to increase development spending on education.  “When you invest in a girl’s education, she feeds herself, her children, her community and her nation, charting a path towards a better world in which human rights are respected and there is dignity for all. That is why delivering education to all girls is so vital” said Solberg.  The sentiment was echoed by her co-chair President Kagame in delivering the MDG2 in Rwanda.  Speaking at the lunch, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasized the importance of corporate investment, “This is more than a philanthropic issue. This is a challenge to do business better. It is a chance to change institutions so they reflect more enlightened attitudes about girls and include strategies to improve their lives.”
Gib Bulloch for Accenture Development Partnership devoted his annual roundtable discussion to global education this year, exploring innovative partnership and financing. The Global Fund Executive Director, Mark Dybul addressed the group (following a successful replenishment year) to confirm his view that the next step for better healthcare is delivering universal education and learning. Healthy children learn well – simple as that! Children at school can also learn about their own health and well being – so a virtuous circle. Bill Goodwyn from Discovery Communications also shared his perspective on the impact of corporate alliances with each other, with governments and non-profits to scale up education investments in a sustainable way.
The plight of Syrian refugee children was on everyone’s minds and A World at School’s report by Kevin Watkins (proposing the innovative double shift system in Lebanon and other host countries to accommodate a population desperate to resume school) is gaining traction. The technical work to make this a reality has been speedily completed, and the Lebanese government made a commitment to be the first to pilot this new ‘education in emergencies’ system. So now, the funding rounds have started, and inevitably many of these discussions were taking place in the corridors and meeting rooms of the Davos Kongress Center.  Fingers crossed that the total sum required is achieved soon.
The education priorities and ways to tackle the growing crisis for refugee children will continue to be raised in the coming months at the forthcoming IMF/World Bank meetings in Spring.
To read my blog from the newly launched @TheWorldPost (a joint initiative with Huffington Post and the  Berggruen Institute on Governance) on the growing need to prioritize education to achieve healthcare goals, please click here.
Photo: WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM/ Christof Sonderegger