Gordon Brown Delivers Lecture at the UN: “Promises Made to Children are Sacred”
On Wednesday, April 19 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, The Irene D. Pritzker/IDP Foundation Distinguished Lecture on Social and Economic Development, co-hosted by the Foreign Policy Association in the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber, featured the Right Honorable Gordon Brown, former United Kingdom Prime Minister and UN Special Envoy for Global Education.
Mr. Brown delivered a sensational, yet sobering address, sprinkled with a dose of charisma and humor, to a full chamber consisting of a healthy mix of UN delegates and civil society. Mr. Brown opened his speech by acknowledging his theme for the evening, “The Need for Global Cooperation: Promises Made to Children are Sacred,” and referencing a lighthearted anecdote about Albert Einstein. He then recounted an experience he shared with the late Nelson Mandela at a charity event, from which he derived his topic for the evening.
Mr. Brown proceeded by mentioning the need to examine the laws created to protect children around the world to prevent the militarization of schools, the recruitment of children in militia, the abduction and use of children as sex slaves, and the violations of girl’s rights. He also stated that international law is not equipped to deal with many of these incidents, and announced that a new advisory committee had been put in place, including organizations like Save the Children and Their World, which will examine how the law protects children in conflict globally, and how the law can be improved.
It is long overdue that people spoke up for children who are facing conflict by violations of their rights… Gordon Brown
Mr. Brown stated, “It is long overdue that people spoke up for children who are facing conflict by violations of their rights…” “What destroys hope amongst children is their inability to plan and prepare for any future. Their inability to have hope about the future, because they are denied the very human right that is so important, and that is the right to education.”
He continued his address by outlining efforts to be made to provide every displaced refugee and child with an education, citing statistics from the recently launched Education Commission “The Learning Generation” report.
Mr. Brown currently serves as the chair of the International Commission of Financing Global Education Opportunity, and was instrumental in the launch of The Learning Generation report
It is possible to make a better world and it must start with a commitment to the education of a younger generation… Gordon Brown
During his speech, Mr. Brown offered solutions, highlighted in the report, and discussed a proposal for financing education globally through an innovative model to raise additional funds for the estimated 260 million children currently lacking a primary or secondary education. This financial model called on assistance from not only governments, but donors, humanitarian efforts, and development aid.
Mr. Brown concluded his address by referencing Anthony Burgess’ novel Clockwork Orange, and its missing last chapter, which highlights a narrative of redemption. Mr. Brown drew a parallel of the book’s missing chapter and stated, “we now need a Chapter 21…and that chapter 21 says when things are impossible, they are only impossible until they are possible…it is possible to make a better world and it must start with a commitment to the education of a younger generation…”
Gordon Brown addressing attendees in ECOSOC chamber (Photo: RoseMarie Wallace)
After the conclusion of Mr. Brown’s address, Mrs. Pritzker presented Mr. Brown with the Foreign Policy Association Medal, which identifies individuals who demonstrate responsible internationalism, and work to expand public knowledge of international affairs. Past recipients include the Honorable Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City; Timothy Geithner, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; and Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia.
Irene Pritzker presenting Gordon Brown with FPA medal (Photo: RoseMarie Wallace)
After receiving the Foreign Policy Association Medal, Mr. Brown took a few questions from the audience, and Mr. Noel V. Lateef, CEO and President of the Foreign Policy Association, adjourned the program.