Ladies and Gentlemen,
You will recognise behind me Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, from which I have just read the first few lines.
I appreciate this article, as, to my mind, it links two essential elements: education and freedom. Every individual – every child – has a right to education, so that they can freely choose their path, so that they have the means to nurture their potential. I am convinced that the success and prosperity of nations, here and elsewhere, depend on this fundamental freedom.
Experimenting – learning – passing on
Liberal nations have integrated this dynamic of knowledge. By focusing on education, they have enabled their citizens to be free and independent, to participate in an informed way in the welfare and advancement of society.
The political system we have in Switzerland has this model at its heart, providing us with an education that shapes us into responsible citizens who get to have the final say. This is how our country works. And it works rather well!
In terms of the right to education, however, we still have some way to go.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On Wednesday, some 900,000 boys and girls across Switzerland attended school as part of compulsory education.
That same day, 222 million children affected by crises around the world were deprived of regular access to education.
That figure has tripled in the last five years. We are facing a global crisis in education. This crisis obviously concerns us all, and more particularly it impacts on the development and cooperation ecosystem.
Without education there can be no development.
On the occasion of this second edition of the IC Forum, I am delighted to see so many of you here to discuss one of the development aid challenges of our century. As the name of the UN emergency fund for education puts it so well: Education Cannot Wait.
I am looking forward to welcoming guests from all over the world here tomorrow. Together with our friends from Education Cannot Wait, we will invest our efforts in this key Sustainable Development Goal.
A commitment to education is an investment. Education is one of the main drivers of prosperity. It is through this that fragile nations can rebuild and look towards a better future.
As you know, Switzerland is a prosperous, attractive country.
But why invest in this small country with no commodities and no access to the sea?
Why invest in a country that in the 19th century was gripped by economic and social crises, poverty and even hunger? A country that had seen many of its citizens forced to emigrate to the New World.
Why is Switzerland one of the most innovative nations in the world? We owe this capacity for innovation to the importance we have attached to education, ever since the creation of modern Switzerland in the 19th century.
The attractiveness of a country depends broadly on the availability and quality of its workforce. As you can discern behind me, those who call us a tax haven are largely wrong. If Switzerland is any kind of haven, it is a haven for education!
Not only our universities, but also our dual education system – which combines basic education and vocational training – have become a recognised source of inspiration.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The state must be committed to ensuring the right to basic education. This commitment has shown that it is an effective way to achieve enlightenment. And, as you will have noticed, the darkness is clearly never far from our door.
However, the search for solutions cannot be left to states and international organisations alone. The private sector and public authorities are part of the mix. Everyone has a great interest in being able to rely on a well-trained workforce.
Finding solutions to access to education requires academics, diplomats, financial specialists, NGOs, politicians and philanthropists. And you are here today!
This is the reason for this Forum: thought and action. ‘Together different’.
I am convinced that it is well within our grasp to compare and contrast our disciplines, combine our methods, merge our knowledge, identify correlations and anticipate future trends.
Together we have opened the debate to rethink education – thinking outside the box. Together we must now take it forward globally.
And what if we don't get it right first time? Then, like Samuel Beckett, we must try again:
"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
The task is immense. Let us not give up. Our future depends on it.