NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As world leaders descend on New York for talks on global security, Australia’s former prime minister urged U.S. President Donald Trump not to focus just on North Korea but to tackle the unrest fueled by lack of opportunity in poor countries.
Julia Gillard called on Trump to not allow the pressing nuclear crisis in North Korea to dominate the United Nations’ General Assembly starting on Tuesday but to also focus on preventing future sources of conflict including lacking education in the developing world.
“My message for President Trump, for all leaders gathered at the U.N. General Assembly ... is there’s always a lot of hard issues causing leaders’ interest to bulge,” Gillard said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“But as leaders deal with the crisis of the day, I hope that there is sufficient energy for them to think about ‘How do we avoid many global problems into the future?’”
The U.S. military staged bombing drills with South Korea and Russia and China began naval exercises ahead of New York’s week-long assembly after the reclusive North conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3 in defiance of U.N. sanctions.
Gillard, 55, said the case for urgently putting millions of developing nations school-age children in classrooms was imperative and rested on “hard-hitting practical” arguments.
“We know that higher levels of education tend to be associated with less radicalization and consequently less prospect of terrorism,” she said.
Currently 825 million school-age students in poor countries - or nearly six in 10 - won’t be on track to graduate from high school in 2030, according to projections by the U.N.-backed Education Commission.
Gillard, who was Australia’s 27th prime minister from 2010 to 2013, now chairs the Global Partnership for Education, an organization that aims to get all children globally to school.
The issue is personal for the former politician who credits education for allowing her to rise from a working class family to become Australia’s first female prime minister.
“My paternal grandfather was a service worker in a coal mine, my father was a nurse and I was prime minister of Australia. What explains that? Actually it’s education,” she said
Giving the world’s poorest a chance to complete schooling could also help prevent waves of migrants fleeing to richer nations seeking a better life, Gillard said.
“Of course people get on the move for all sorts of reasons including immediate crises and conflict,” said Gillard.
“But) when asylum seekers are asked about what has caused them to start moving and keep moving, one of the main answers they give is that they are in search of a better education for their children.”
Despite recent debates in various rich countries over scaling back foreign aid, the former leader of Australia’s center-left Labor Party said she remained optimistic her vision would receive increased financial backing from governments.
The Washington-based Global Partnership for Education (GPE), is seeking to raise $3.1 billion from donor countries over 2018 to 2020 to support education in 65 developing countries.
Gillard said she was not naive about the challenges of getting countries to commit funding but it was critical.
“But) I know this is not an easy world in which to put some of the arguments ... about how important it is to educate every child,” she said.
Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org