UNGA ‘16: GBC-Education’s Events

Photo by Lana Wong / The Education Commission

The 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly featured several key moments for education, ranging from the Education Commission’s report launch, in which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized that quality education and lifelong learning must be available to all, to President Obama’s Call to Action, where the private sector came forward with major commitments to address the global refugee crisis.

Alongside these moments, the Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education) hosted a series of events to convene members and leaders from the private, civil, and public sectors to consider innovative responses on the global refugee crisis and education in emergencies. Punctuated with exciting announcements and transformative ideas, GBC-Education’s events and meetings provided a platform for important discussions and meaningful engagement between members and leaders across all sectors.

The Education Commission’s Report Launch

“Education saves lives, education carries hope, education builds dignity, education brings about social inclusion, education brings sustainability to all development.” – Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO at the Education Commission Report Launch.

Kicking off GBC-Education’s week of events, the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity released its report, The Learning Generation: Investing in Education for a Changing World, at the UN. The launch featured voices from the public, private, and civil sectors, calling for an intervention for the 263 million children and young people worldwide who are currently out of school. “Last year the world made a promise to the children of the world – that by 2030 every children excluded from learning had the right to a quality education. We are already off track,” warned Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save the Children International, “so we have to be bold and we have to be courageous.” To put global education back on track, the Education Commission’s report includes detailed recommendations for each sector to change the trajectory for young people globally.

The Annual GBC-Education High-Level Breakfast

“We can be the first generation where every single child is at school and learning and we need your help to do so.” – Gordon Brown, United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education, at GBC-Education’s breakfast.

GBC-Education’s annual high-level breakfast brings together thought leaders and changemakers from all sectors to collectively engage in and critically consider the state of education around the world. This year’s breakfast, the largest yet, was no exception. Representatives from government, the UN, charities, and business gathered to address education in emergencies and ensure that every child, no matter their circumstance, has access to a quality education. Numerous participants announced their efforts to help the world’s out-of-school children, such as Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares, who shared that Dubai Cares has launched a $10 million research envelop for education in emergencies. Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kristian Jensen, announced that Denmark would donate £10 million, or approximately $11.3 million, to the Education Cannot Wait Fund.
Representatives from the private sector provided their share of exciting news regarding innovations to provide education during times of crisis, including HP’s plan to open 6 digital learning studios for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, and Microsoft’s newly-formed partnership with Pearson to deliver opportunities for 20,000 Syrians to learn and acquire globally-recognized certifications, allowing them to pursue in-demand jobs in the technology sector. The momentum built around this year’s breakfast illustrates the significant work being done across all sectors to affect the lives and education of children across the globe, culminating in the unveiling of GBC-Education’s Rapid Education Action (REACT) Database. The database enables companies across the globe to register their resources and expertise that could be deployed at the onset of the next emergency – more than 30 companies have already signed onto this effort.

Roundtable with Julia Gillard and Sarah Brown

“We need to challenge ourselves to look at how we are really going to reach the point where every child is going to school.” – Sarah Brown, GBC-Education Executive Chair at the roundtable event.

This year, GBC-Education was honored to host former Prime Minister of Australia and Global Partnership for Education Board Chair Julia Gillard for a conversation with Sarah Brown about the concrete opportunities for business to engage in education in both emergencies and longer-term initiatives in developing countries. Participants in the roundtable offered their experiences and expertise during the course of the conversation, providing concrete examples of how business can successfully engage with education. Douglas Hunt from IBM spoke about the ways in which technology can be leveraged to better facilitate learning, while Mariam Farag from the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) Group shared how their focus on a holistic approach to education and workforce readiness is positively impacting refugees and local communities. Sharing the pathways for business to engage in education, both in emergencies and for longer-term impact, helped participants consider best practices and ideas for scaling education efforts.

Asia Society Breakfast

“We need to think about leadership at every level, and, as challenging as our [education] systems are in building a quality workforce, the challenges are even more significant when we’re talking about reaching the most vulnerable kids.” – Wendy Kopp, CEO and Co-Founder of Teach For All, at the Asia Society breakfast.

GBC-Education was delighted to partner with Asia Society this year to feature a robust program on Transforming 21st Century Education Systems. Joined by former Korean Minister of Education, Ju-Ho Lee, CEO and Co-Founder of Teach For All, Wendy Kopp, CEO of Pratham, Madhav Chavan, Head of Education of Tata Trusts, Amrita Patwardhan, and others, this event examined how systems can ensure equitable access to a quality education, 21st century skills, and global citizenship. The event also featured remarks from President and CEO of Asia Society Josette Sheeran, Vice President of Education of Asia Society Tony Jackson, and Executive Chair of GBC-Education Sarah Brown.

Girls’ Education Task Force

“With the new more ambitious SDGs and the launch of the Education Commission’s report, this is an important time to identify new ways to partner to increase access to quality education for all girls everywhere, especially those most likely to be left behind.” – Kolleen Bouchane, Director of Policy and Research, GBC-Education at the Girls’ Education Task Force.
At this year’s convening of the Girls’ Education Task Force, GBC-Education members shared their priorities for girls’ education, including identifying regions in the world that require a targeted approach to get girls in schools, and opportunities for partnership. Members found areas of intersection between their work, and ways expand efforts in the task force.

GBC-Education’s Annual Member Meeting

“For the first time, we now have a mechanism that allows our members, and other businesses, to connect their contributions to where they can have maximum impact. Our coalition wants to see results.” – Tom Fletcher, Director of Global Strategy, GBC-Education at the Annual Member Meeting.
Following GBC-Education’s Girls’ Education Task Force meeting, members gathered to share their insights about the successes of this past year and discuss strategies for maximizing the impact of business and the Coalition going forward. Director of Research of the Education Commission, Liesbet Steer, also joined the meeting to present the ways in which business can invest in and engage with the learning generation, outlined in the Education Commission’s report.


“In an era where technology plays a role in each moment of our life, a problem of how to bring back 2.5 million Syrian children and more than 61 million around the world back to school cannot be thought of without paying attention to the role of technology in finding a novel solution for a long lasting problem.” – Hatem Sallam, CEO, ITWORX Education at the Refugees@EDU event.
To conclude GBC-Education’s week of events, members attended and participated in Refugees@EDU, a dedicated moment for refugees as part of Millennium@EDU’s annual education technology event, Sustainable Education. Hosted at Microsoft Technology Center in Times Square, this event brought together representatives and stakeholders from across the education-technology space, this year featuring reputable voices from private sector, such as Microsoft and Intel, IGOs including the World Bank and UN Global Compact, and INGOs, such as Digital Promise.

For the Refugees@EDU session, GBC-Education offered an introduction to how business can support education in emergencies through the new REACT database, which serves as a platform to to rapidly deploy resources in support of education at the onset of an emergency. The presentation also featured Coalition members Hatem Sallam, CEO of ITWORX Education, and Gus Schmedlen, Vice President of Worldwide Education at HP. Building on an overview of their partnership with Digital Promise to deliver learning studios for Syrian refugees, Schmedlen emphasized the return on investment realized through strategic alignment of corporate social responsibility initiatives and the company’s sustainability work. Sallam provided an overview of how ITWORX Education is bringing sustainable education to children in distress, highlighting the importance of strategic cross-sector partnerships in realizing their impact.