Message from the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC

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We look forward with eager anticipation to gathering in Fiji for the 20th Conference of Commonwealth Education Minsters (20CCEM), together with the associated Integrated Partners Forum for those representing students, teachers, higher education leaders, and civil society organisations involved with education at all levels.

Education is the cornerstone of the Sustainable Development agenda, and is an essential precursor for peaceful, prosperous and just societies. At this first CCEM to be held since the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals was agreed in September 2015, ministers will assess progress and share prospects for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4, on how to: ‘ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning’.

Great strides have been made across the Commonwealth towards this goal, yet still only one third of children in developing Commonwealth countries have access to early childhood education, 17 million primary children remain out of school, and over 400 million adults are illiterate.

Our Commonwealth ambition is for improved education outcomes in all communities and national settings, so that people of all ages and backgrounds are able to fulfil their potential with dignity and equality in a healthy environment.

The conference theme, Sustainability and Resilience: Can education deliver?, sets our focus clearly on the transformative contributions which need to be made by schools, universities and other places of learning and vocational or professional training if we are to reduce vulnerability, and work together towards a common future that is more sustainable, fairer, more secure, and more prosperous for all.

Sustainability and resilience can be built using the regenerative model of development, through which we find and implement holistic solutions, working together towards a common future based on the values and principles of our Commonwealth Charter, leaving no one behind.

This means tackling climate change and other natural and geopolitical causes of displacement and disruption which in all regions of the Commonwealth damage infrastructure, impair access to education, and adversely affect learning outcomes.

With these impacts in mind, and Fiji currently holding the Presidency of the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), it is very fitting that attention will be given at 20CCEM to the role of education in climate change mitigation. Perspectives and policy recommendations from the 20CCEM can also be carried forward to the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting being held in London, UK, in April 2018.

We thank the Government of Fiji for hosting 20CCEM, and for planning with care for a conference of enduring value to the entire Commonwealth. Ministers and delegations and all those participating can look forward to a warm Fijian welcome, and a rewarding and productive time working with counterparts from throughout our richly diverse and mutually supportive Commonwealth family.