Collaboration to Meet SDG4 and Support the 2030 Decade of Action – UNGA ”75” 2020

RET, represented by its President & CEO Ms. Zeynep Gülgün Gündüz was part of the High-level Virtual Side Event, UNGA” 75″ 2020 “Government and Foundation Partners Demonstrate Effective Cross-sectoral Collaboration to Meet SDG4 and Support the 2030 Decade of Action.”
This event was co-hosted by Education Above All Foundation, the Permanent Mission of The State of Qatar to the United Nations, Qatar Fund For Development, the UN Office for Partnerships, and UNESCO. 

The event discussed ways to enhance collaboration among vital actors, specifically countries, civil society and foundations, policymakers, and institutions engaged in education, humanitarian, and development responses to accelerate country progress on the SDG4 and the related SDG targets. 

The SDG4 Education 2030 Framework for Action seeks to promote international collaborative efforts to achieve SDGs through different methods and institutional arrangements, including cross-sectoral coordination and multi-stakeholder partnerships. The overall 2030 Agenda recognizes that the global goals and targets will not be achieved through single sectoral approaches alone. The SDG4-Education 2030 Framework for Action’s key message is that different domains (e.g., data, sport, water, energy, and food) are interconnected. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of collaboration between sectors to ensure students’ well-being and learning continuity. 

RET addressed its multi-sectoral response in more than 32 countries worldwide and emphasized its achievements in the Americas related to (SDG 13) strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters by mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction & Management within education-focused interventions to improve all learners’ education on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning; (SDG’s 5 & 9) using an innovative, inclusive approach, paying particular attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations to leave no one behind; and (SDG 6) providing equitable access to safe drinking water and restore water-related systems in school settings, among other interventions. 

Ms. Gunduz highlighted the Zero Project Award 2020 for innovative practice, won by RET for “Including Children, Adolescents and Youth with Disabilities in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Practices.”

Ms. Gündüz Part at 1:03:40

Ms. Zeynep Gülgün Gündüz Remarks:

“Thank you very much for the introduction and thank you to “Education Above All Foundation” and the Government of Qatar for inviting us to participate in this important event. 

Let me first start with who we are!
At the heart of RET’s mission is to PROTECT and BUILD the SELF-RELIANCE of young people and women. RET works in areas of conflict, crisis, instability, and fragility around the world. We were created 20 years ago by then High Commissioner of UNHCR, Sadako Ogata, to provide education for vulnerable youth, namely refugees in refugee camps. Today, while we still work in camps, most of our work is with urban, peri-urban, and rural populations of concern, including refugees, host communities, and the internally displaced.   

RET has more than 20 years of experience in Education in Emergencies. We have worked in 32 countries, including ten of those in Latin America Caribbean region, throughout Central and East Africa, West Africa in the Sahel, in the Middle East with the Syrian crisis in Lebanon and Turkey, and in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with over 2 million program participants, in over 1,600 schools and centers, in nearly 400 projects.

RET’s core competencies in the spectrum of education are built on interventions ranging from the strengthening of FORMAL and NON-FORMAL education, basic literacy and numeracy, tertiary education, human rights, refugee rights, children’s rights, women’s rights, responsible citizenship, and peacebuilding, addressing and designing inclusive programs with youth with disabilities and special needs, mainstreaming gender equality and disaster risk reduction and management (DRR&M). 

In the framework of SDG4- INCLUSIVE and EQUITABLE EDUCATION FOR ALL – RET is committed to safeguarding refugees’ right to education and other populations of concern. Typically, our education programs are accredited and in line with the Ministry of Education of the host country or the home country. 

RET advocates for enhancing the national education systems’ capacity to include refugees and other displaced adolescents and youth, including those with disabilities, to prevent acts of discrimination and harassment against them and mitigate xenophobic culture.

While RET works in the education sector (SDG4), RET’s interventions are multi-sectoral, and RET is committed to include livelihoods, socio-economic empowerment, food security and nutrition, health and specifically mental health and psychosocial skill support (MHPSS), water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), addressing: 

SDGs 2 (zero hunger), 3 (good health and well-being), 5 (gender equality), 6 (clean water and sanitation), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 9 (innovative and inclusive solutions), 13 (climate change and reduction of its impact) and 17 (partnerships for the goals)

RET is committed to mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction & Management (DDR&M) within its education interventions to improve all learners’ education on climate change, mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning.

I want to give an example of a highly innovative project we designed in 2015, together with youth in Panama and the various Panamanian ministerial authorities as a first-ever pilot project.

In terms of natural disasters, Panama is faced with the threat of flooding each year and is vulnerable to climate variability due to the El Nino phenomenon, and earthquakes and volcanoes.

The RET project was the first in Panama ever to integrate DRR&M practices into public schools to increase education sector RESILIENCE and to empower young people with disabilities to be agents of positive change in both DRR and first response.

Our RET approach was threefold: 1) awareness-raising and mobilization, 2) capacity-building, 3) institutional strengthening.

Since 2015, we have continued and expanded this project with nearly 8000 young people with disabilities participating in our program, in tandem with first aid and emergency exercises, and the designation of evacuation plans and paths.

RET also built the capacity of education partners, teachers, parents/caregivers, education center management, and staff on DRR&M through training, development of curricula, development of guidebooks and manuals, and even for the first time, the development of sign language on risk management and first response!

I want to add here that in 2020, RET has won the Zero Project Innovation Award for this project. 

RET has had 17 projects in the field of Disaster Risk Reduction & Management (DRR&M) in multiple countries in LAC region, with 70,000 participants in programs in Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador, starting in Colombia, working with the Ministry of Education in the 94 departments throughout the country, where RET trained to build capacity and work together with the departmental representatives in designing DRR preparedness for all the schools, in the development of tools and frameworks, benefitting 41,000 in 1,200 schools.

During the last few years, RET has been engaged globally with the Global Alliance for Risk Reduction and Resilience (GADRRRES) and at the regional level with the Regional Education Sector Group for DRR and Education in Emergencies. RET was also previously engaged in CORELAC, the Coalition for Children and Youth Resilience in Latin America and the Caribbean. As Coordinator of CORELAC, RET participated in the UN World Conference on DRR held in Sendai, Japan, in 2015, sharing the voices of Children and Youth for Resilience to DRR and advocating for their inclusion as relevant actors in the Sendai Framework for DRR through 2030.  

Once again, thank you, all, for having RET here today.”
Ms. Zeynep Gülgün Gündüz

Program and Panelists

Welcome Remarks

  • Ambassador Sheikha Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani, Permanent Representative of The State of Qatar to the United Nations


  • Mr Jordan Naidoo, Director of the UNESCO Kabul Office and Country

Representative to Afghanistan

Keynote Speakers

  • Ms Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group
  • H.E. Khalifa Jassim Al-Kuwari, Director General, Qatar Fund for


  • Ms Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO

Panel Members

  • The Honorable Janet Kataaha Museveni, Minister of Education & Sports, Uganda
  • HE Dr Hang Chuon Naron, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport,


  • HE Professor George A. O. Magoha, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of

Education, Kenya

  • Ms Annemarie Hou, Executive Director, a.i. UN Office for Partnerships & Senior Communications Advisor, Office of the Secretary-General, UN
  • Ms Zeynep Gündüz, President, CEO & Board Member, RET International
  • Ms Mamta Saikia, CEO, Bharti Foundation
  • Ms Nezha Alaoui, President, Mayshad Foundation
  • Ms Magdalena Brier, Managing Director, ProFuturo Foundation
  • Ms Carola Tembe, Program Manager, H&M Foundation

Closing Remarks

  • Mr Fahad Al-Sulaiti, CEO, Education Above All Foundation