It kicked off with the biggest climate change march in history. Opening with a boom heard around the world as hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets calling for action and justice on climate change.
A perfect start to what is always a crazy week even by New York standards -- the convening of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) as well as the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). "Midtown mayhem," as I like to call it (affectionately), with streets suddenly barricaded as presidents, prime ministers, rock stars and Fortune 500 CEOs descend from around the world to make appearances, pledges and connections on some of the most pressing issues of our time.
Motorcades, entourages, banquets and other "high-level" events proliferate, staffed by messy rooms full of puffy-eyed, heavily caffeinated staff (surviving on granola bars, pizza and adrenaline) drafting press releases, talking points, blogs and shouty text messages -- WHERE ARE THE MICROPHONES? THE MINISTER IS HERE NOW! GET ALL THE THINGS!
It's traffic hell and policy and campaign heaven. I've come for this week many times over the years. I wrote my first blog, lost my first senior speaker, broke in my first Blackberry (what?) and saw my first iPhone all during various UNGA weeks.
Over the years conversations during this week have focused with increasing seriousness on finishing the job on ending poverty. This is in part because of the commitments made in 2000 -- the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) -- gave us a 2015 deadline by which world leaders pledged to make dramatic progress. And because of the work of committed activists and citizens, like those who poured into the street for climate justice on Sunday who know that nothing will change for the most vulnerable in our world, without pressure.
This is clearly true for education as well, because though we have made progress, here we are with just over a year to go and 58 million children around the world are still denied even a basic education.
That was not the promise. The promise was zero children out of school. When the MDGs were launched and promises were made in 2000 there was real momentum, aid was committed, governments acted, debts were cancelled, schools fees were abolished and millions of children around the world went to school for the first time ever.
But now, with a year to go, progress on global education has stalled, aid to education continues to drop, particularly in the poorest contexts and schools, school children and teachers are being attacked around the world.
In response, the most charismatic and ambitious group of youth leaders I've ever met launched the #UpForSchool petition calling on world leaders to take urgent action to get every child into school without danger or discrimination. We know what needs to be done but if there is one thing this noisy week has taught me, it's that nothing changes without pressure.
These youth are creating a movement that no governments, no politicians or leaders can ignore and even in a crowded space like this week, they got the attention they deserved.
Soon this week will be over, delegates will be dispersed back around the world and New York City will go back to a quieter roar. Around the world however, the roar will continue to build as youth collect signatures and begin to demonstrate the demand to get all children everywhere access to education.
Support these youth and the 58 million children around the world that are still out of school. They don't need your sympathy. To start with, they need your signature.