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

World Education Forum 2015 and the Incheon Declaration

The World Education Forum (WEF) 2015 took place in Incheon, Republic of Korea from 19-22 May 2015. 

The WEF 2015 sought to galvanize the education community around a common vision for Education 2030, leading to agreement in principle on a comprehensive Framework for Action and the adoption of a Declaration. The WEF’s outcome were fully aligned to the education goal and targets of the global development agenda adopted at the UN High-Level Summit in September 2015, so as to ensure a single education agenda for 2015-2030. This requires continued strong engagement and support of governments and all other education partners to ensure that the future education agenda is holistic and transformative, and that its targets are achievable and measurable. 


The World Education Forum 2015 was a historic opportunity to reframe the global education agenda as the international community designed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. The global education agenda 2000-2015 was developed in reference to both the Millennium Development Goals and Education for All (EFA) frameworks.

In April 2000, the participants at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, adopted the Dakar Framework for Action ‘Education for All: Meeting our collective commitment’. The Dakar Framework reaffirmed the vision of the World Declaration on Education for All adopted ten years earlier in 1990 at Jomtien, Thailand. It committed to meeting the basic learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015 through six goals ranging from improving early childhood care and education and universalizing primary education, to reducing adult illiteracy, ensuring gender equality in education, and improving the quality of education.

In September 2000, world leaders came together at the United Nations in New York to adopt the UN Millennium Declaration, committing to reducing poverty and setting out a series of targets that became known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Inspired by the EFA goals, the MDGs included two targets related to universal primary education and to gender equality in education. Building on this heritage, WEF 2015 was a unique occasion to reshape the global education agenda within the comprehensive framework of the SDGs being de ned for 2030. 

It is widely recognized that the Education for All (EFA) agenda and the related MDGs led to significant advances for the right to education. The mobilization and investment that they triggered yielded unprecedented progress, notably in access to formal schooling and in gender parity in primary education. However, major education challenges still persist in all countries and regions of the world. Some of them – notably equity, quality and learning opportunities for youth and adults – have not received the attention they deserve and new ones have emerged since 2000, such as the need to improve the development of relevant skills for life and for work, for all age groups.

For these reasons, national governments and other stakeholders mandated UNESCO in 2011 to “initiate deliberations with Member States on the EFA objectives to be defined for the post-2015 period”. These broad-based and inclusive consultations, which included the UN Thematic Consultation on Education in the post-2015 Development Agenda co-led by UNESCO and UNICEF, were conducted through the existing EFA coordination mechanisms at sub-regional, regional, and global levels. They culminated in the Muscat Agreement adopted at the 2014 Global EFA Meeting in Oman, which represents the global community’s shared vision of the future of education. A two year-long broad consultative process and Muscat Agreement informed the global education goal (SDG4) and its associated targets and means of implementation.

Sustainable development starts with education

Education is central to sustainable development and constitutes the pathway to a life of dignity for all. This was clearly reaffirmed during the WEF 2015 plenary session that examined the contribution of education to sustainable development. Sustainable development, it was argued, cannot be achieved by technological solutions, political regulation or financial instruments alone. Achieving sustainable development is only truly possible through cross- sectoral efforts that begin with education – not any type of education, but one that addresses the interdependence of environment, economy and society, and helps bring about the fundamental change of mindsets needed to trigger action for sustainable development.

Recognizing the important role of education, the SDGs reflect education both as a stand-alone goal and as education-related targets under other SDGs.

It was argued that since education has the potential to accelerate progress towards the achievement of all of the SDGs, it should be part of the strategies to achieve each of them. This is particularly true with regard to poverty reduction, health, and climate change. Indeed, education equips people with the competencies to increase their income and escape poverty (SDG1). Educated people are better informed and able to access, understand and apply information about health, which helps to reduce diseases and contributes to better health outcomes (SDG 3). Education increases environmental awareness and concern, and equips people with the skills and values to change behaviour and find solutions to environmental challenges (SDGs 12-15). Participants at WEF 2015 called upon the international community to make the most of the full potential of education as a catalyst for sustainable development. 


The Incheon Declaration

Building on an assessment of the experience in realizing the goals and targets set out in the EFA and MDG frameworks adopted in 2000, the WEF confirmed the contours of the proposed future education agenda. This new agenda is outlined in the Incheon Declaration ‘Education 2030: Towards inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all’ adopted at the WEF conference. It reaffirms and supports SDG4 on education to: ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’. The proposed education-related SDG and its constituent targets are further detailed in the Education 2030 Framework for Action. This framework also addresses gaps in the proposed SDG targets on education. Moreover, it proposes indicative strategy options for each target to support implementation. It further suggests coordinating, financing and monitoring processes and mechanisms. The Incheon Declaration is a progressive agenda for a universally-relevant global education for 2030 which builds on gains made and proposes more ambitious targets while recognizing persistent challenges in equitable access to quality basic education. 

Our vision is to transform lives through education, recognizing the important role of education as a main driver of development and in achieving the other proposed SDGs. We commit with a sense of urgency to a single, renewed education agenda that is holistic, ambitious and aspirational, leaving no one behind. This new vision is fully captured by the proposed SDG4 ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ and its corresponding targets. It is transformative and universal, attends to the ‘unfinished business’ of the EFA agenda and the education-related MDGs, and addresses global and national education challenges.

Incheon Declaration, Article 5 

The Declaration represents a collective commitment of the education community to implement the Education 2030 agenda. It inspires bold and innovative action. The Declaration also entrusts UNESCO to continue its mandated role to lead and coordinate the 2030 education agenda. 

Foundational Principles

The 2015 Incheon Declaration and the proposed Sustainable Development Goal 4 on Education for 2030 are grounded in long-established foundational principles. First and foremost among these is education as a fundamental human right enabling the realization of all other economic, social, and cultural rights. The Incheon Declaration reaffirms ‘the vision and political will reflected in numerous international and regional human rights treaties that stipulate the right to education and its interrelation with other human rights.’ This is particularly true for basic education which must be seen as the building block for further learning, professional and vocational skills development, and work, as well as for social, civic, and political participation in a lifelong perspective.

The vision of Education 2030 also reaffirms that education is a public good. This implies that the state is the main duty bearer in protecting and fulfilling the right to education. It also stresses the collective dimension of education as a shared societal endeavour, implying an inclusive and participatory process of public policy formulation and implementation, with shared responsibility and commitment to solidarity at the local and global levels. Reaffirming this principle in the context of the multiplication and diversification of non-state actor involvement at all levels of education, it is essential to strengthen the role of the state in the regulation of educational processes and the protection of the fundamental right to education for all.

In short, the Education 2030 agenda: inspired by a humanistic vision of education and development based on human rights and dignity; social justice; inclusion; protection; cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity; and shared responsibility and accountability. We reaffirm that education is a public good, a fundamental human right and a basis for guaranteeing the realization of other rights. It is essential for peace, tolerance, human fulfilment and sustainable development.

Incheon Declaration, Article 5 

See a list of relevant EiE events at WEF 2015 and read about INEE's participation on the INEE Blog.