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Promoting access to quality, safe, and relevant education for all persons affected by crisis

CSE and Youth, Week 5: Designing a Post-2015 Education Agenda for – and with – Youth

Learn more about what role youth should play in the final run-up to new sustainable development goals

by Lauren Greubel and Michaela Reich

With the Millennium Development Goals expiring in 2015, the international community is enthralled in a complex and critical process to agree on the next set of development priorities. Parallel to this process, education specialists are discussing what will follow the Education For all (EFA) goals, which also sunset next year.

Great achievements have been made over the past 15 years as a result of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and EFA agendas. These frameworks have shown us the power of a collective agenda, specific targets and political will. 

For the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals to truly address the needs of youths, though, a post 2015 agenda-setting process that reflects the needs of young people is a critical first step. Globally,  63 million adolescents remain out-of-school, almost half of whom live in fragile and conflict-affected areas. In a rapid changing world with a knowledge-based economy, 73 million youth remain unemployed.

More than ever youth need strong education systems with relevant curriculums and well trained teachers to provide them with the skills to keep up in our global and transforming landscape. Addressing the challenges of school-to work transition and helping young people to be active global citizens will help to create more peaceful and inclusive societies.

The process for designing new sustainable development goals provides an important opportunity for the international community to finally address the need for a high quality and inclusive education for all young people, particularly the most marginalized and those affected by conflict.

Youth need to be essential partners for the post-2015 agenda

In addition to ensuring that the needs of young people are reflected in the post-2015 framework, there have been intentional efforts to ensure that youth are actively engaged in the design, implementation and monitoring of the development framework that will directly affect their lives.

UNESCO IIEP research has poignantly highlighted how young people are rarely seen as essential partners in education planning. Youth are commonly excluded from national and global education policy debates. This is disproportionately true for the most marginalized youth who are most affected by lack of education.

Progress is being made in this round of development goal setting. Unlike during the design of the MDGs, youth have been involved in the post-2015 debate. Youth participated in the Open Working Group consultations, My World and The World We Want consultations and spearheaded a crowd sourcing effort by the UN Envoy on Youth to garner youth input into the forthcoming United Nations Secretary General Synthesis Report.

One forum through which the needs and perspectives of young people have been relayed to the highest levels of the UN process is the Major Group on Children and Youth. The Major Group developed consultative and inclusive policy positions on, and on behalf of, children and youth in the post-2015 process. All of these efforts have been concerted in their attempt to represent the needs of all young people, especially those living in fragile or conflict-affected environments.

Areas of Influence Over the Next 11 Months

After intense intergovernmental negotiations, the Open Working Group (OWG) proposal for post-2015 goals resulted in recommendations for standalone goals on education and on peaceful, inclusive societies as part of 17 proposed sustainable development goals.

Formal inter-governmental negotiations will begin in early 2015 and culminate in a high-level summit in September 2015, where heads of state will adopt the final post-2015 agenda.

Education leaders will also meet in May 2015 at the World Education Forum to adopt a Framework for Action to achieve the education goals. Across all of these high-level meetings and negotiations there are still opportunities to make the case for leaders to ensure that the education of the most marginalized children and youth is made a central priority. Not only should the needs of children and youth be front and center in the new SDG agenda, but they should also be seen as development partners in their own right. These agendas should ensure that the participation of youth is seen as a core strategy to implement the new agenda.

Here are four ways in which the education community can engage youth in the content, design and implementation of the post-2015 frameworks:

1. Financing the agenda: A Financing for Development Conference will be held in Ethiopia in July 2015. Here, the future aid architecture will be considered, including different financing sources and modalities. There is an opportunity to reach out to the Permanent Missions to the United Nations that are part of the intergovernmental consultations and ask them to include youth at the conference, and to address the role of youth in monitoring the financing of the development goals. This is also a key moment to ensure that financing for education takes into account education in fragile and conflict-affected states and during emergencies and crises.

2. Education For All: Member states, civil society, the private sector and UN convening agencies will meet in the World Education Forum in Korea in May 2015 to adopt a Framework for Action for education. The education community can advocate with their governments and Permanent Delegations to UNESCO to ensure that the Framework for Action enshrines the role of young people in the development, implementation and monitoring of the new post-2015 education goals.

3. Disaster Risk Reduction: The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) will be hosting a youth workshop on November 14 -16 in Geneva, on the margins of the 2nd Preparatory Committee Meeting (PrepCom2). That’s where formal negotiations will take place in the lead up to the 3rd World Congress for Disaster Risk Reduction. This is a unique opportunity to join efforts and contribute to the advocacy campaign of the UN Major Group on Children and Youth on disaster risk reduction that will inform the post-2015 negotiations on this topic.

4. Think about governance, monitoring and accountability early: A number of publications are documenting the best practices for youth engagement in the governance of the post-2015 framework (for further details see the resources section). Youth can play a key role in holding donors and governments to account for its implementation. The next step is to ensure that these recommendations are built into the implementation framework of the Secretary General’s final report.

Questions for discussion:

  • How can we learn from the successes and weaknesses of the MDGs to provide the best quality education to all children and particularly for youth living in conflict-affected countries?
  • What opportunities exist to engage young people in the post-2015 development  process?
  • How have young people been engaged in this process at the country level?
  • How could conflict-sensitive education contribute to the proposed SDG target that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills to promote sustainable development, including a culture of peace and non-violence? How can we measure the acquisition of this kind of knowledge and skills?


Michaela Reich works on post-2015 and Lauren Greubel on youth engagement for the Global Partnership for Education.

The Global Partnership for Education is made up of nearly 60 developing country governments, as well as donor governments, civil society/non-governmental organizations, teacher organizations, international organizations, and the private sector and foundations, whose joint mission is to galvanize and coordinate a global effort to provide a good quality education to children, prioritizing the poorest and most vulnerable. The Global Partnership for Education has allocated US$3.9 billion over the past decade to support education reforms in some of the world's poorest countries.


Additional resources:

Walker, D.& Pereznieto, P. (2014). Partners for Change: Young People and Governance in a Post-2015 World. ODI, Plan International and Restless Development.
Davis, A., de la Harpe Bergh, G. & Lundy, A. (2014). Young People’s Engagement in Strengthening Accountability for the Post-2015 Agenda.
UNESCO (2012). Engaging Youth in Planning Education for Social Transformation. Concept Note; Summary Report; Agenda for Action. Paris: IIEP.
UNESCO (2013). Education for all is affordable- by 2015 and beyond. Policy Paper 6. Paris: UNESCO.
UNESCO (2014). Sustainable development. Post-2015 begins with education. Paris: UNESCO.

Internet Resources

Global Partnership for Education Youth Advocacy
UN Major Group on Children and Youth
Office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth
ODI Youth Priorities for Post-2015