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On 19 September, during the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York City, Heads of State and other influential decision-makers convened at the Transforming Education Summit (TES) to elevate education to the top of the global political agenda and to mobilize action, ambition, solidarity and solutions to recover pandemic-related learning losses and transform education in a rapidly changing world.
The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres opened the summit by outlining the five key Action Tracks for attention and commitment, including Action Track 1: Inclusive, equitable, safe and healthy schools. Consultations were previously held on each Action Track to mobilize new commitments, by highlighting policy interventions that work, and leveraging existing initiatives and partnerships, including those that emerged in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A collective lobbying effort by the UN Friends of Vision Group resulted in eye health featuring in the Outcome Discussion Paper for Action Track I. Under ‘Key Recommendations, Member States called to “establish partnerships and engage multiple sectors to expand integrated and comprehensive school health and nutrition, including…vision screening.” Additionally, screenings in schools were highlighted as “a cost-effective way to detect and correct impairments that may affect children’s ability to learn,” and it was recommended that priority be given to “ensure that all school-aged girls and boys and adolescents have access to integrated school health and nutrition services [including] vision screening.”
The Summit included engagements on Youth-Led Mobilization and Solutions. A Youth Declaration highlighting young people’s collective sense of urgency was presented and called on world leaders to invest in inclusive education that ensures the full participation of all students in the same learning environment regardless of ability.
During the Summit, country leaders, ministers, heads of UN Agencies and community advocates held thematic sessions on cross-cutting issues such as critical partnerships, the digital transformation of education and financing. National Statements of Commitment were presented by Heads of State and Government and a number of states committed to – or reaffirmed– national school health plans and policies targeting inclusivity.
Informed by an extensive and inclusive preparatory process that took place in the months leading up to the Summit, the Secretary-General released a Vision Statement to Member States and the global public that lays out a path for education in the 21st century. It will serve as an input to negotiations in preparation of the Summit of the Future which will be held at the UN. The vision statement included a call for countries to support learners´ nutrition, physical and mental health.
For more information on child eye health and vision, visit Focus on Child Eye Health.