Boris Johnson promised that the pandemic recovery will not repeat the mistakes of the financial crisis has he pledged to build back in a "greener, fairer, more gender neutral" way.
The Prime Minister used the first session of the G7 summit in Cornwall on Friday to rally fellow world leaders to support a comeback from Covid that benefits every area of society.
Striking an upbeat tone, Mr Johnson said the economies of the G7 nations – the UK, US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy – have the potential to "bounce back very strongly" from the virus.
But he warned: "It is vital that we don’t repeat the mistake of the last great crisis, the last great economic recession of 2008, when the recovery was not uniform across all parts of society."
To prevent the pandemic from leaving a "lasting scar", with inequalities entrenched, he urged G7 leaders to ensure that they "level up" across their societies.
Mr Johnson also signalled that the recovery should be a "gender neutral" or "more feminine" one, underscoring that sentiment with an announcement of £430 million in UK aid funding to support schooling for the world’s most vulnerable children, with a particular emphasis on girls’ education.
G7 Summit agenda
The cash will be funnelled to the Global Partnership for Education, the largest fund dedicated to education in developing countries, and is set to help up to one billion children.
Mr Johnson said investing in female learning is one of the best ways to lift countries out of poverty, saying it was a "source of international shame" that children around the world are cheated of opportunities to prosper and thrive "purely because they are female".
He called on his fellow leaders to "donate and put us firmly on a path to get more girls into the classroom". Italy has pledged €25 million, the European Commission has committed €700 million and further announcements are expected in coming days.
Britain will host a global education summit in London next month to raise more funding.
On Friday, the Duchess of Cambridge joined Jill Biden, the US First Lady, to visit an academy school for four to 11-year-olds in order to highlight the issue of the early years development of children.
Mr Johnson’s cash commitment was unveiled amid a row between the Government and senior Tory backbenchers over a cut to the aid budget from 0.7 per cent of gross national income to 0.5 per cent.
The money to support children’s education will – like another pledge unveiled by Mr Johnson on Friday, to donate 100 million surplus vaccines to developing countries – be funded outside the ring-fenced international development budget.
He resisted calls from campaigners to take further action, including waiving patents on vaccines, saying the deal to supply Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs at cost price and the UK’s funding for the Covax initiative to provide doses around the world showed the country was making a strong contribution.
Zoe Abrams, the executive director at the British Red Cross, said the promise on vaccines was "heartening" but added: "While every commitment must be welcomed, more needs to be done – and fast."