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Job Creation Is the New Game in Town

November 13, 2020

Even if a successful rollout of a new COVID-19 vaccine causes the current health crisis to recede by next spring, the unemployment crisis will remain. That is especially true in the United Kingdom, where fiscal stimulus is urgently needed to avert a lost decade – if not a lost generation – of growth.

EDINBURGH/LONDON – In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, both the US and European economies are gearing up for large-scale job creation. US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to invest $700 billion in manufacturing and innovation, plus $2 trillion in a “Biden Green Deal” to combat climate change and promote clean energy. Meanwhile, Germany has abandoned years of thrift by backing a €750 billion ($887 billion) European

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A Letter to the International Community

August 17, 2020

LONDON – We write to call for urgent action to address the global education emergency triggered by COVID-19. With more than one billion children still out of school because of the lockdown, there is a real and present danger that the public-health crisis will create a COVID generation who loses out on schooling and whose opportunities are permanently damaged. While the more fortunate have had access to alternatives, the world’s poorest children have been locked out of learning and denied Internet access. And with the loss of free school meals – once a lifeline for nearly 400 million boys and girls – hunger has grown.

Deconstructing Donald

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The Deadly Urgency of Now

April 28, 2020

The consequences of lapses in international cooperation in combating COVID-19 over the last few months can now be counted in lost lives. Having failed to stop the first wave of the pandemic, we must not make the same mistake again.

LONDON – “This is not a discrete one-off episode,” Wellcome Trust head Jeremy Farrar has warned. “This is now an endemic human infection.”

What the Stock Market Is Really Saying

PS OnPoint

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The EU Should Issue Perpetual Bonds

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Debt Relief Is the Most Effective Pandemic Aid

April 15, 2020

Just as the pandemic can be contained most effectively and least expensively with aggressive early action, the lesson from the past is that global recessions and their human costs are best addressed quickly and boldly. A two-year debt-payment moratorium for every emerging and developing economy that needs help would serve both goals.

LONDON/CAMBRIDGE – The nations of the developed world have responded to the COVID-19 crisis by supporting their domestic economies and financial systems in bold and unprecedented ways, on a scale that would have been unimaginable three months ago.

The Invisible Killers

PS OnPoint

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Now or Never for Global Leadership on COVID-19

April 7, 2020

During the global financial crisis of 2008, G20 leaders coordinated a global response, and in other emergencies – such as tsunamis, civil wars, or epidemics – coalitions of countries have convened donor conferences to generate the necessary resources. Today, we need both.

LONDON – This week, leaders from medicine, economics, politics, and civil society are uniting to demand immediate and coordinated international action – in the next few days – to mobilize the resources needed to address the COVID-19 crisis, prevent the current health catastrophe from becoming one of the worst in history, and avert a global depression. As a letter to the world’s leaders notes, because we are so far behind the COVID-19 curve, many

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Johnson’s Win Is a Loss for British Power

December 16, 2019

Having secured an electoral mandate, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will likely barrel ahead with previously outlined plans to abolish the country’s foreign-development agency and assign its duties to diplomats in the foreign office. But while diplomacy and development are both crucial to British soft power, they are hardly the same thing.

LONDON – With Brexit dominating the United Kingdom’s agonizing general election this month, a number of momentous policy proposals have received little to no discussion. Chief among these is right-wing Conservatives’ plan to abolish the UK Department for International Development. Now that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has secured a parliamentary majority, the DFID could soon be

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Closing the Education-Technology Gap

December 2, 2019

As advances in artificial intelligence and automation continue, the distance between high-skilled elites and everyone else will only grow. To counter this bifurcation, we should be using new technologies to educate more people at lower cost.

LONDON – In 2007, Harvard University economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz published The Race Between Education and Technology. America’s once-great education system, Goldin and Katz argued, was failing to keep pace with technological change and the economic disparity that comes with it. Even more concerning, they would likely make the same argument today. As we enter the third decade of this century, students in the United States and around the world are struggling to

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Boris Johnson and the Threat to British Soft Power

July 15, 2019

The likely successor to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Boris Johnson, has plans to subsume the government department overseeing development aid into the foreign office, effectively eliminating it. That will destroy a post-Brexit United Kingdom’s last chance to maintain any influence or relevance on the world stage.

EDINBURGH – Since the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development (DFID) was created 22 years ago, it has lifted millions out of poverty, sent millions of children to school, and saved millions of lives through vaccination programs and other innovative initiatives. Most recently, it has been a world leader in delivering development aid to poor countries facing the ravages of

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Britain’s Renewal After Trump and Brexit

June 5, 2019

US President Donald Trump’s long-postponed state visit to the United Kingdom has now come and gone. He leaves in his wake a Britain that is consumed not only by a stalled Brexit and the unending debate about it, but also by a far more profound crisis of identity that Brexit has exposed and aggravated.

LONDON – After three days of pomp and ceremony that presented an image of a seemingly unchanging Britain, US President Donald Trump has now departed London. But beneath the veneer of pageantry, Britain is consumed not only by a stalled Brexit and the unending debate about it, but also by a far more profound crisis of identity: a struggle to rediscover what it is to be British.

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Making “Generation Educated” a Reality

May 29, 2019

Year after year, the international community falls further behind in upholding its commitment to provide quality education to all children by 2030. With the number of out-of-school children having far surpassed crisis levels, it’s time to adopt a new approach.

LONDON – Continuous declines in international education aid are depriving half of all young people in the developing world – some 800 million children – of the education they will need to secure meaningful employment in the future. Having fallen from $13.2 billion to $13 billion this year, total education aid (from bilateral and multilateral sources) now accounts for just 7% of the world’s total aid budget.This means that all the

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Can a “No-Deal” Brexit Be Avoided?

January 28, 2019

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s party is divided, her cabinet is split, and perhaps half its members are jostling to succeed her. To ensure an orderly withdrawal from the European Union, her government has only one option.

EDINBURGH – It is a near-tragedy that the United States and the United Kingdom – the two countries most identified with long-established stable constitutional frameworks – are now ranked among the world’s most dysfunctional democracies.

Fred Dufour – Pool/Getty Images


In the past, when Britain’s Parliament faced crises and appeared deadlocked, it proved capable of breaking the stalemate. Over two centuries, battles over

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Globalization at a Crossroads

January 9, 2019

Over the course of the past decade, the world has changed more than at any other time since the World War II era. And, as economic and geopolitical power seeps away from the West, the United States, rather than leading a new multilateral front, has embarked on a self-defeating project of atavistic unilateralism.

LONDON – Whether or not one realizes it, 2018 may have been a historic turning point. Poorly managed globalization has led to nationalist “take-back-control” movements and a rising wave of protectionism that is undermining the 70-year-old American-led international order. The stage is set for China to develop its own parallel international institutions, auguring a world divided between two competing global-governance

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70

December 26, 2018

When it was adopted in December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sent the unequivocal message that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. But the UDHR remains constrained by a lack of consensus about why the rights it includes should be regarded as fundamental, let alone who should protect them and how.

LONDON – Seven decades after its adoption, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) remains a beacon of hope for the world, sending out an unequivocal message that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and that no abuse of human rights can be allowed to continue without challenge.

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The Great Disruption

December 25, 2018

As new technologies, globalization, and growing inequality fuel a populist backlash across the West, 2018 could be remembered as a turning point for the liberal world order. Rising nationalism, widening trade wars, and the overall weakening of international cooperation are symptoms of a deeper struggle over what international arrangements will come next.

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Education’s Moonshot Moment

September 26, 2018

Great feats of human ingenuity and social progress do not happen through half-measures. If the international community is going to meet its commitment to provide a quality education to all children, no matter their circumstances, then it must confront current funding gaps with the boldness that the situation demands.

NEW YORK – Starting in the late 1940s, an exceptional group of visionaries responded to the devastation of World War II by coming together to build new institutions for a new world. Looking back two decades later, former US Secretary of State Dean Acheson said it was like being “present at the creation.” He was not wrong. The international community had come to a new understanding that prosperity is indivisible and must be

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Europe’s Refugee Scandal

September 18, 2018

Long-term educational and employment needs have historically been severely undervalued in humanitarian planning. But, as much as refugees need proper food, shelter, and health care today, they also need the knowledge and tools to build new lives and contribute to society tomorrow, whether in their home country or in a new one.

LONDON – It has long been known that the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos is plagued by overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and rampant violence, including riots that have left many injured. But when aid workers reported in April that children as young as ten were attempting suicide, another tragic facet of the refugee crisis was highlighted: 30 million children around the world are currently

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Trump’s Assault on Refugees

September 7, 2018

The consequences of the Trump administration’s decision to stop funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East will be severe. Beyond reducing the agency’s capacity to deliver basic services to Palestinian refugees, it will threaten the region’s already tenuous stability.

LONDON – The decision by US President Donald Trump’s administration to stop funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has politicized humanitarian aid, threatens to add yet more fuel to one of the world’s most combustible conflicts, and jeopardizes the futures of a half-million Palestinian children and young people.

Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty

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A Man for All Diplomatic Seasons

August 21, 2018

Kofi Annan’s journey is over. But the legacy of this leader of leaders will live on in the impact that his work on behalf of the environment, education, and poverty reduction continues to have on the lives of people on every continent.

EDINBURGH – Kofi Annan will be mourned on every continent. Under his leadership of the United Nations, internationally shared goals for development (the Millennium Development Goals) were agreed for the first time. But there were other important firsts that occurred on Annan’s watch: The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria was created; $100 billion of African debt was forgiven; aid to the poorest countries rose fast; the Responsibility to Protect principle moved from one man’s

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Maintaining the Momentum Toward Universal Education

May 13, 2018

By 2030 – the year when the world has promised to provide universal primary and secondary education for all – an estimated 800 million people will enter adulthood without the qualifications necessary for the modern labor force. Many of them will be illiterate.
LONDON – On the surface, mass illiteracy seems like an evil that should be easy to eradicate. Achieving that goal requires neither a technological breakthrough nor a scientific discovery. With funding for good teachers and schools, we can provide an education for all children. We need only muster the political will to act.

Xinhua/Xie Huanchi via Getty Images

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The New Global Youth Movement

April 3, 2018

Almost a century ago, Eglantyne Jebb, who founded Save the Children, said that the only language everybody could understand was the cry of a child. But as today’s young people connect, communicate, and assert their rights, their cries are less likely to be tearful pleas for charity than defiant marches demanding justice.
LONDON – The recent March for Our Lives in the United States inspired millions not just across America, but also around the world. Until the nationwide demonstrations on March 24, most people thought that little new could be added to the conversation about the seemingly endless rounds of gun killings.

The Year Ahead 2018

The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart

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America Shuts the Schoolhouse Door on Refugees

March 9, 2018

The US has decided to withhold more than half of its planned funding for the UNRWA – $65 million of the $125 million earmarked for the agency. The move, which has been called a death sentence for the agency, will deal a devastating blow to efforts to confront the education emergency that the world already faces.
LONDON – No international institution has done as much for children’s schooling on the ground for as long as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). And yet, no international organization has suffered an overnight funding cut as devastating as the one UNRWA now faces, after 70 years of serving the displaced and the desolate.

The Year Ahead 2018


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Nigeria’s Schoolgirls Are Under Attack Again

March 2, 2018

The international community must do everything possible to support the Nigerian government’s efforts to locate and rescue the 110 girls recently abducted by Boko Haram terrorists in the village of Dapchi. It must also redouble its efforts to prevent the recurrence of such incidents, by investing more in building truly safe schools.
LONDON – They lie about 150 miles apart in the vast brushlands of northern Nigeria, but the towns of Chibok and Dapchi have a tragic bond: both have been targets of large-scale kidnappings of schoolgirls by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. Following a three-year global campaign to free the 276 girls kidnapped from Chibok in 2014 – an event that brought Boko Haram’s sadistic agenda to the world’s attention – 110 girls in Dapchi vanished

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Universal Education’s Moment of Truth

December 21, 2017

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that every child should have access to free primary education. Yet, 69 years after that pledge, a record number of children – some 70 million – are caught in the crossfire of humanitarian crises that are denying them schooling and placing their futures in jeopardy.
LONDON – For nearly seven decades of a tumultuous century, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has served as a beacon of hope worldwide. But some of its finely crafted provisions have come back to haunt us in the form of some shocking new statistics.

The Year Ahead 2018

The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what

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A Double Betrayal for Refugee Children

September 18, 2017

Last year, the Education Cannot Wait fund was created to close the education-financing gap for refugee children and ensure that the necessary resources are available when disaster strikes. It was a heartening development, but the harsh reality is that donor pledges have not kept pace with need.
LONDON – From Syria to Myanmar, children caught in the crossfire of conflict are victims of a double betrayal. Forced out of their homes in the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, they have now become the innocent victims of a broken promise that they would, even as refugees, be able to attend school. And, even as their circumstances worsen and their numbers increase, their plight is going all but unreported.

Michele Eve Sandberg/Getty Images

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Social Impact Investment Just Paid Off

July 31, 2017

LONDON – Big ideas are few and far between. Progress usually occurs incrementally, bit by bit. But sometimes a big idea – even one that starts modestly – can thoroughly transform our view of what is possible.

Last week, a small social experiment conceived ten years ago to help 2,000 young delinquents in Peterborough, in eastern England, paid off – literally. More important, the Peterborough experiment has become the guiding light for hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in social reform.

During the last Labour government, I worked with one of Britain’s greatest entrepreneurs and philanthropists, Sir Ronald Cohen, to create what became the world’s first Social Impact Bond (SIB). Concerned about the rate of youth reoffending, Sir Ronald and his colleagues

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The Right to Education for Refugees

June 19, 2017

LONDON – From Fawaz’s home in a makeshift refugee camp just across the border from Syria, where he lives with his now-displaced family, one danger has been traded for another. “There are no schools. There is no education. My children have no toys. They play only with mud,” he says. “Our life was better in Syria.”

The children’s mother, Muna, shudders as she tells of encounters with snakes, rats, and mosquitoes. “We left Syria because of war,” she says. “Our family lost everything, but I am most upset because my children have lost their future.”

Fawaz and Muna’s story is not unique. Their pain is shared by almost every refugee family that once called Syria home – families that take to the seas and deserts in search of opportunity in the form of an education for their

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A Bridge to Universal Education

April 20, 2017

LONDON – In a confrontational world where protectionism is on the rise, multilateralism has become an easy target for criticism. But those who doubt its value must have short memories. They seem to have forgotten that the Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe after World War II, NATO kept nuclear war at bay during the Cold War, and foreign aid lifted millions of people out of poverty in just the past few decades.

At the World Bank and the IMF’s upcoming annual spring meetings in Washington, DC, delegates will be reinforcing the case for international cooperation. In particular, we will be discussing the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd), a bold plan to ensure that, for the first time in history, all of the world’s 1.6 billion boys and girls – including refugees and displaced children in low- and middle-income countries – are in school and learning.

The IFFEd draws its inspiration from two landmark examples of international cooperation: the joint IMF-World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, which wiped out $100 billion in unpayable debt; and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which has saved millions of lives by providing immunizations and other services.

The IFFEd, for its part, would facilitate annual investments in education to the tune of nearly $10 billion.

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Educating Syria’s Rebuilders

December 28, 2016

LONDON – In Aleppo, the devastated Syrian city and former rebel stronghold that has now been retaken by Syrian government forces, there was a glimmer of hope even as the bombs were falling. Amid the ruins, learning endured, as 15 young Syrians prepared for their university exams. They could not walk to a college campus, because so many of the country’s universities have been reduced to rubble. But they could still earn their degrees, thanks to a unique online program made available by the University of the People (UoP).

Every week, the Syrian students participate in online courses alongside pupils and instructors from around the world. Through these virtual classrooms, they pursue their chosen degree in business administration, computer science, or health science. The courses are so well prepared that many of these highly motivated students will be invited to attend Western universities later in their studies.

The UoP’s program has been a rapid success. Its enrollees currently include 500 Syrians – half of whom are still holed up in their war-torn homeland, while the other half are refugees – and 6,000 other students, from almost 200 countries. The UoP’s inventive model was developed by the education entrepreneur Shai Reshef, and has been endorsed by some of the world’s most renowned academics.

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The Disunited Kingdom

November 25, 2016

EDINBURGH – Today, the United Kingdom is united in name only. With different regions and industries desperately trying to opt out of a “hard Brexit” from the European Union, and Scotland even considering independence, whatever ties bind the UK together are being severely strained.

This is no temporary or passing phenomenon. The vote to leave the European Union was fueled by deep-seated public anger about the huge structural inequalities between the UK’s north and the south – inequalities that, as UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond acknowledged this week, are the worst in Europe. Yet Brexit will only exacerbate Britain’s regional divide: as the more export-dependent north loses jobs faster than the south, post-referendum optimism will be cut short.
Since 2010, the northeast has comprised 4% of the UK population, contributed just 3% of the country’s gross value added (GVA), and accounted for only 2% of the economy’s new jobs. Those figures are 11%, 9%, and 7%, respectively, in the northwest; and 8%, 6.5%, and 6%, respectively, in Yorkshire and Humberside. By contrast, London and the southeast have accounted for 26.8% of population, 37.7% of GVA, and 39% of new jobs. In fact, since 2010, half of all new jobs were created in London, the southeast, and the east.

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Education Innovation in the Middle East

October 26, 2016

LONDON – Supporting the millions of newly displaced people of the Middle East demands resources far beyond the capacity of the United Nations, and is a continuous humanitarian-aid challenge for companies, foundations, and public-sector donors. While UN peacekeepers are financed by a system of “assessed contributions,” humanitarian aid depends on voluntary donations. Education, which is prioritized below basic survival needs like food and shelter, all too often gets left behind.

This failure is far more dangerous than it might seem at first glance. In fact, we now confront an education crisis that threatens to leave a lost generation of young people without any hope for a better future. The majority of Syria’s six million displaced children remain out of school, while around 250,000 young people miss out on a college education. In war-torn Yemen and Iraq, millions more children are also missing out on school. Some may go through all their school-age years without ever entering a classroom.
But thanks to the Platform for Education in Emergencies Response, charities, philanthropists, and foundations can unite to help refugee students find higher-education opportunities, and to provide safe havens for lecturers and professors persecuted by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

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