The margins of the annual United Nations General Assembly offer a unique moment in the calendar when the politicians and leaders of the world gather in New York to discuss international development. As the formalities of UNGA take place, with Heads of State speaking on behalf of their countries, it is the margins of UNGA where the real business takes place.
Oshun has had experience of organising meetings that have ranged from the highest levels such as the launch of Every Woman, Every Child, Africa Leaders’ Malaria Alliance event, the High Level Taskforce for Innovative Financing for Health, and a host of education meetings, including the launch of the UNSG’s Global Education First Initiative. This year was no different and saw Oshun involved with the preparations for six Learning for All Ministerial meetings as well as the launch of the Global Health Investment Fund.
“Events themselves should be the culmination, or a milestone within a process, rather than something that stands alone. Done well, they are opportunities to bring together key stakeholders for dialogue, and forcing moments, which can enable key decisions to be accelerated and delivered”. Sarah Beeching 2013
Oshun Partnership is not an event organiser, but understanding what makes for a successful meeting and how to achieve outcomes through process of prior negotiation is a unique skill we bring.
Working with the Office for the UN Special Envoy for Education, Gordon Brown, and the Global Partnership for Education, six countries were identified as having a tipping point in leadership – enabling the opportunity for dialogue to agree how to accelerate the delivery of quality education for all. The countries involved were Afghanistan, Chad, East Timor, Myanmar (Burma), Pakistan and Somalia (which included Federal representation, alongside Ministers of Education from Puntland and Somaliland).
Meetings in UNGA margins tend to be short, so success is all in the preparation. We created a locally driven process to set the agenda. GPE facilitated workshops with the Local Education Groups to identify key bottlenecks hindering the delivery of education, potential solutions, and financial and other resources requirements. Unsurprisingly several key themes emerged:
Alongside the ministerial teams for each country, key donor, UN agency, World Bank and CSO stakeholders were invited. Unlike many UNGA meetings these meetings were not choreographed, but tightly chaired. The outcomes differed from country to country. For some countries, such as Myanmar, and Somalia, this was one of the first opportunities to engage ministers and key partners in the challenges faced in their countries, following years of conflict and insecurity. For others, with well-structured plans in place there was the opportunity for further political and financial commitments to be made.
For each of the governments attending the Learning For All Ministerials there was a definite sense that education was now firmly on the political agenda.
Malala Yousafzai, attended both the Pakistan and Afghanistan meetings and summed it up well “Children are deprived of their basic rights to education… We are here to find a solution to the problems we are facing…if we work together for education we can find solutions to all the problems we are facing. It is my dream to see every child educated, to see equality for every human being, and to see peace every where in the world. Let us make today’s dream tomorrow’s reality”.
No single moment or meeting will provide the solutions by themselves, but the momentum created at these meetings holds the potential to realise further change and progress in education for the children who need it most.
Sarah Beeching from Oshun led the process to deliver the Learning for All Ministerials in New York, September 2013