AVSI side event at the UN General Assembly and our commitment on education

The speech of Giampaolo Silvestri in New York at the event “Education: A catalytic investment for development. Providing youth with the freedom to build their future”

Countries South Sudan
Date 20.09.2023

AVSI in collaboration with the Permanent Missions of Italy and Nigeria to the UN in New York, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), UNESCO and the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning co-sponsored a high level side event on September 19th at the UN General Assembly in New York.

High level representatives of the Italian government, UNESCO, the Holy See, Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Mauritania discussed about access to quality education for all the children who continue to be impacted by the challenges of conflict, political instability, poverty, and climate change.

"To fill the gap and ensure the right to education for all, every 2 seconds a child would need to be enrolled in school from now to 2030: this shows the magnitude of the educational crisis we are tackling", Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Deputy General Director for Education, underlined. This is why "it is time to shift our perspective on education from an expense to a strategic investment, one that not only transforms individual lives, but transforms societies", as remarked by Laura Frigenti, CEO of GPE and AVSI Advisory Board Member.

With a focus on youth participation: both Temilade Salami, GPE Youth Leader, and Mons. Caccia, Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the UN, draw attention on the fact that young people must be listened to, empowered and included in decision-making processes from start to finish: otherwise, what can policy makers offer to them, without knowing what they expect?

Education: a catalytic investment for development.
The event registration

AVSI at the UN: Giampaolo Silvestri speech

A personal story to shed light on this theme

"If you have not been educated, they don't value you." If you did not have the possibility to receive an education, you are invisible, you are not recognized for your worth.

I would like to open my speech with this quote from a 22-year-old single mother living in South Sudan, a woman named Living Sunday who is the protagonist of this video:

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She took part in a project of ours, that helped her get back to school after she had to drop off because of her pregnancy. She gets up every morning at 4 am to go to school and is really passionate about her studies, as she has now become aware that having an education is the first, necessary condition for her to be "seen," considered, valued – even from her own point of view, not just that of others’. By receiving an education, she can find a job, become independent, raise her child and ensure a decent life for him and for herself.

Through education, both formal schooling and her personal path of self-awareness, Living Sunday has come to know that she can be the protagonist of her own life. It is only when everyone discovers their own value and takes charge of their own life, can the most authentic and lasting development begin.

Education as a condition for development: how and why

This is AVSI’s approach to the educational challenge. In all our projects we give priority and preferential attention to education, in all circumstances.

EdEducation is the cornerstone of every intervention we carry out. By making people aware of their own value, they become able to express freely all of their resources, they are empowered to act and put themselves in motion for their own good, as well as for the good of their families and communities. As protagonists of their own lives, they can kickstart a process of personal and community development.

In this process of growth, interpersonal relationships are crucial. This is not theoretical. We must all meet someone who can help us discover our dignity and value.

For this reason, education and development must always be based on personal relationships that make it possible to shape free, responsible, open-minded people.
We bring this distinctive approach to all our projects across the entire life cycle, from early childhood to adulthood, with the goal of supporting individuals capable of responsibly facing the challenges of their lives.

A new step forward: education and development either belongs to everyone or no one

If this is the kind of education and development we are aiming for, we must always keep in mind that the destiny of Living Sunday and her son, living in South Sudan, are tightly linked to that of our children everywhere in the world. Investing in education for Living Sunday is connected to doing the same for my own daughter, Teresa, in Italy.

We need to change the way we think about the relationship between our countries. We can no longer think of the north of the world helping the south, but as different countries working together towards common development: this conviction is what should motivate our calls for investment in quality education at all latitudes. There can be no development just for some, if it is not for all.

And therefore, we need to create the conditions that make it possible for everyone, always and everywhere, to be educated in critical thinking and to experience the deep recognition of one’s own value. This will make it possible to build vibrant, welcoming communities, capable of investing resources in autonomy and growth.

This is why educational investment in places like South Sudan goes hand in hand with that made in our own countries. We face crises and challenges that affect us all equally: let us think for example of migration, the climate crisis, economic inequality, conflict. These are never "private" issues. We can only address them together.

Education as a pivot in the “Mattei Plan”?

This is why we hope the “Mattei Plan” that Italy is about to launch to foster a new partnership with African countries will pivot on investments in education and vocational training.

We hope that the Mattei Plan will support educational realities for children, as well as for young people, helping them e

We hope that the Mattei Plan will support schools and other educational institutions for children, as well as for young people, helping them enter the labor market according to the required skills and possibilities.
Formal education and higher education pathways, along with vocational and post-secondary training designed to meet the needs of local and global markets, will make it possible to develop human capital within the country. This will also create alternatives to irregular migration, allowing people to choose to remain, and opening opportunities to move elsewhere for work in a more regulated way, making sure that human rights are respected.

We don't have to reinvent things from scratch: there are successful education, vocational training and job creation programs that can be replicated and expanded. We should scale-up programs with proven positive impact.

Let us take the positive and start from there, from a new way of thinking. Let’s take on the educational challenge, let’s start by looking at our children and thinking about the future we want for them.

Let us look at the positive and start from there, from a new way of thinking. Let’s take on the educational challenge, starting by looking at our children and thinking about the future we want for them.
Thank you.