Transcript: Global Fund for Education Conference Call with Archbishop Desmond Tutu
June 30, 2009, 11:00 am ET
Operator: Good day and welcome to the RESULTS Educational Fund Global Fund for Education Conference Call. Today’s call is being recorded.
At this time, I would like to turn the call over to today’s speakers; please go ahead.
Joanne Carter: Thanks very much, Operator. This is Joanne Carter, executive director of RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund, a global anti-poverty advocacy organization.
Welcome to today’s media teleconference in advance of the 2009 G8 summit, focused on the urgent need for accelerated progress to achieve education for all and the particular opportunity we have at this moment for a global fund for education.
In just a few moments, I’ll turn this call over to our distinguished guest speakers, Emeritus Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu and Desmond Bermingham, visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development and former head of the Education for All – Fast Track Initiative.
The major impetus for today’s call is that three of the world’s most respected moral leaders, Desmond Tutu, who’s with us today; Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland; and Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, have today released a letter to President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the other G8 leaders, urgently calling on them to create and fully fund a Global Fund for Education by the end of this year.
As background, President Obama, in the midst of his presidential campaign, boldly stated his commitment to education by pledging at least $2 billion annually for a Global Fund for Education. And just recently, in his speech in Cairo, he reaffirmed the importance of education when he stated, “A woman who is denied an education is denied equality.” But the president has not yet acted on his promise to close the education deficit by providing at least $2 billion to establish a Global Fund for Education. Nor is the G8 on track for meaningful action on this.
The U.S. and the world desperately need a bold, reinvigorated strategy to achieve education for all and a Global Fund for Education is an enormous opportunity to do this.
So briefly, why do we need a Global Fund for Education? First, we’re failing the world’s children. In over 50 countries, many in sub-Saharan Africa, half of all children never complete primary school. And worldwide, some 75 million primary school aged children are not in school. Half of these kids are in conflict affected countries.
And second, despite the need and the enormous impact of education, especially for girls, there’s still a $16 billion annual financing gap to provide all children with 8 to 10 years of basic education. Global aid to basic education has actually been falling with over a 20 percent drop between 2006 and 2007 in aid flows through donors to developing countries.
And the main partnership to achieve education for all, the Fast Track Initiative, or FTI, which supports the development and financing of national education plans in some 37 key countries is massively underfunded and over $1 billion short this year alone, and you’ll hear more about the Fast Track from Desmond Bermingham.
The Global Fund for Education is an opportunity to build on FTI to make sure that the global multilateral effort to achieve education for all is expanded, fully resourced, and where needed, reformed.
For example, we need to find better ways to serve the 37 million children not in schools who live in conflict-affected countries. Another reason, for those of us in the U.S., this is also a key opportunity to increase the impact of our education aid. Because while we’ve gradually seen increases in U.S. funding for basic education over the last number of years, we have not seen the leverage or impact that those resources could have if they were more effectively supporting country national education plans, targeting countries in regions with the greatest need, and were part of a broader multilateral process.
As you’re all aware, the current economic crisis will only exacerbate the challenge for families and countries. If the U.S. and other donors fail to step in to fill the gap, we risk not only slowed progress, but even a regression that will mean hope snuffed out for literally millions of children.
Over 45,000 Americans have recently written to President Obama to ask him to fulfill this promise and 12 million people around the world joined the Global Campaign for Education’s call to world leaders to achieve education for all during an event in April called the Big Read. This is something the world wants desperately.
It’s crucial that President Obama take action, as promised, for the creation of a Global Fund for Education and that the UK, as the most important investor in EFA [Education for All], join him in launching this effort. The U.S., the UK, and the rest of the G8 leaders must respond to the call from these moral leaders for creation of a Global Fund for Education.
OK, it’s now my great honor to turn this call over to Desmond Tutu, Emeritus Archbishop of Cape Town of the Anglican Church of South Africa, 1984 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and global advocate for the world’s children.
Archbishop Tutu, please go ahead. We’d love to hear your comments about the need for education for all and this letter that was just released today by you and the other leaders.
Desmond Tutu: Thank you so very much, Joanne. I’m very thrilled and honored to be part of this conference call.
When President Obama was elected there was a great deal of excitement in most of the world. We, I think, almost everybody, believed that we were entering a new era. People just — because of what you did in the United States we felt a new surge of hope and despite the fact there has been this economic downturn, this flame of hope still burns high.
People remember what he said in his campaign and the three of us who have signed this open letter to him and the other leaders of the G8 say we welcome and are heartened by the commitment of the United States to provide a contribution of at least $2 billion so that we can meet the Millennium Development Goals of making education — basic education — available to all children.
At the present time, the picture is a doleful picture. Joanne has given an indication of some of the statistics but we know — I mean that although those statistics seem just to be sets of figures, we know that they represent people of flesh and blood and unfortunately the world has reneged very considerably on the promises it has made to help those most needing it. We are certainly failing the world’s most vulnerable children. Those children caught in countries affected by conflict.
I live in a country which is not affected by conflict, but it is a country that is being ravaged by the HIV and AIDS pandemic. We have 1000 deaths a day happening and you can imagine the number of children who are left without at least one parent and where children have lost both of their parents. And these orphans, these vulnerable children are the ones most likely to be excluded from accessing a safe and quality basic education.
You’ve heard too from Joanne that there are still 75 million children excluded from primary school and very, very many more, I think something in the order of 226 million adolescents who are not in high school and you have 770 million adults who can’t read or write. We get to hear — I mean something quite exciting — that where a girl child has had five years of schooling, that has an incredible dividend, because it means that those girl children, when they in their turn become mothers, the chances of their children surviving beyond the age of five increases 40 percent. It’s a fantastic return on that investment and education improves the health of families and reduces vulnerability to HIV. They say that if all children had a seat in a classroom, 700,000 new cases of HIV infection could be prevented each year.
And so we call on the G8 to support President Obama, as we call on him to fulfill the undertaking he made during his campaigning for president to set up this Global Fund for Education and call on his colleagues, especially the British Prime Minister, to join in giving the world’s children real new hope that a better life is available for them. Thank you.
Joanne Carter: Thanks so much, Archbishop Tutu, for your words and for your leadership in this effort.
I now want to ask Desmond Bermingham to give us some perspective on the opportunity of a Global Fund for Education. Why it’s needed? What it could do?
Desmond Bermingham has worked in the education sector in the UK and globally for over 20 years. He is currently a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development, and he was head of the Education for All Fast Track Initiative Secretariat until 2008. Please, go ahead Desmond.
Desmond Bermingham: Thanks, Joanne, and thank you for inviting me to join this conversation.
Both Joanne and the Archbishop have outlined the scale of the problem, but I think one point I would emphasize is that we have a tremendous opportunity here. I think the good news is that many developing countries around the world have got sound education plans in place and they are investing their own money in those plans and they are making remarkable progress.
To give two examples, Rwanda, ten years after the genocide, more than doubled the numbers of children in school and reached almost 100 percent of their girl children going to school.
Another current country dealing with desperate economic circumstances, Niger, has recruited literally tens of thousands of additional teachers to help get children into school. So the foundations are there and we need to build on that success. And that’s why I think the call for the Global Fund for Education is coming at exactly the right time.
There’s a lot of discussion, and I’m sure there will be a lot of discussion at the G8 meeting about the financial crisis, but we shouldn’t let the short term problems of finical crises blind us to the long-term needs of educating the children and youth of the world.
If we’d look at what the U.S. government here is doing, and what the UK government is doing in other countries in Europe, they are investing now in training and skills for their young people so that they can benefit from the economic upturn when it comes. We have to do that in developing countries as well.
The Archbishop mentioned several points about the positive impact of education. I want to underline particularly the positive impact of education improving health for girls and young women. It is probably the single most effective intervention to reduce the risk of young women becoming HIV positive and also to help them take greater control over their lives and greater control over when they start families and raise young people.
Education has also been shown to make a major contribution to better governance in countries. Educated young people demand and expect good government and democratic and open government and they are far less vulnerable to extremists or other forms of interventions that damage governance.
And lastly, in many countries around the world that are emerging out of conflict and deep war, educating the young people gives them an opportunity and a chance to do something different and something better, and take control of their lives and build peace for their country.
So there’s no doubt of the value investing in education. I warmly welcome the leadership that has been demonstrated by Archbishop Tutu, and his colleagues and I also warmly welcome the leadership that’s been demonstrated by the U.S. I think for many years, our own government in the UK and Gordon Brown in particular, has championed basic education, and I know he’s delighted that the U.S. is taking up that championing and will continue the leadership going forward. We have a huge opportunity and then I’m delighted to be able to be a part of this conversation at this point.
Joanne Carter: Thanks. Thanks so much, Desmond, and only to say that it is clear to all of us that it’s hugely important because this will not — there’s a huge opportunity in this moment and it won’t happen without U.S. leadership and it won’t happen without the G8.
I’m going to stop here, Operator, and just ask you if you could give instructions to the journalists that are on the line about how they can get in the queue to ask questions.
Operator: Thank you. If you would like to ask a question, please do so by pressing the star key followed by the digit 1 on your touchtone telephone. If you are using a speakerphone, please make sure your mute function is turned off to allow your signal to reach our equipment. Once again, that is star 1 and we’ll pause for just a moment.
Operator:: We do have a question from Jessica Shepherd with the Guardian newspaper.
Joanne Carter: Go ahead, please.
Jessica Shepherd: Thank you. Could you tell me a little bit more about what you hope Gordon Brown will do? How much money you’re talking about in terms of his contribution to this fund?
Desmond Bermingham: This is Desmond Bermingham here, let me try and answer that. I think the U.K. has already made its statement, hasn’t it? Over the next ten years it will contribute $8.5 billion to education. Our expectation, I think, is that the UK will use some of that financing either through its bilateral programs or through its multilateral programs to make its own contribution to the Global Fund for Education. But I think what’s critical is that the UK and other donors, including the U.S. are joining together to channel their financing to where the needs are greatest.
Joanne Carter: Yes, this is Joanne Carter. You know, I think the real opportunity with the UK is to leverage the leadership that the UK is showing at this point, you know, and frankly the investments that have been committed to and making sure to work with the U.S. administration to launch this Global Fund for Education, because, you know, despite U.K. investments, the just — global effort is massively under-resourced, so I think there’s opportunity to leverage the U.S. and there’s opportunities to build on reform, strength, expand what’s been the Fast Track Initiative, which, you know, again, is under-resourced, but also not reaching, you know, many of those conflict affected countries, so how do we build on that. And the U.K. is going to clearly be key in this, but we’re also going to, obviously, massively need U.S. leadership to make this happen and to fulfill in some ways on this vision that Barack Obama put forth, which Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and others can take forward.
Desmond Tutu: Yippee, we’re finished!
Joanne Carter: Operator, did you have? I can’t beat that, but do we have any final questions in the queue?
Operator: There are no further questions, but once again that is star one —
Joanne Carter: OK.
Operator: Star 1 if you have a question at this time.
Joanne Carter: OK.
Male: No, we’re done.
Joanne Carter: Well, Archbishop, thank you so much for joining us.
Male: Thank you.
Joanne Carter: And thanks to everyone who called.
Desmond Tutu: God bless you, god bless you, god bless you.
Desmond Bermingham: Bye-bye.
Joanne Carter: OK, bye.