United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

“Education is at the heart of the quest for human security”, UNESCO Director-General argues at 4th Tokyo International Conference on African Development

From 28 to 30 May 2008, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, attended the 4th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) in Yokohama, Japan.

Jointly organized by Japan, UNDP and the World Bank, the meeting focused on the theme ‘Towards a Vibrant Africa: a Continent of Hope and Opportunity’. Representatives from 51 African countries attended the event, together with UN agencies and the World Bank, regional organizations, civil society and the private sector. Also participating in TICAD IV were representatives from partner countries, including the G8 and Asian nations.

The Director-General attended plenary sessions on the themes of: ‘Acceleration of Economic Growth’; ‘Achieving the MDGs’; ‘Consolidation of Peace and Democratization’; and ‘Addressing Environmental/Climate Change’. Mr Matsuura also attended the Award Ceremony of the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize for outstanding achievements in the field of medical research and health services.

On 29 May, the Director-General co-moderated a breakout session devoted to ‘Ensuring Human Security: Achieving the MDGs’, which focused on community development, health and education. In his introduction to the discussions on education, Mr Matsuura highlighted four key issues.

First, was the need to go beyond the two education-related MDGs to address the full EFA agenda. The Director-General urged that particular attention be given to education quality and literacy, pointing to the acute shortage of trained teachers in Africa, widespread low learning achievement, and the high proportion of adults – 4 out of 10, over 150 million in total –– who cannot read and write.

The second issue was how to respond to the burgeoning demand in Africa for secondary, technical and higher education. “MDG 2 only focuses on primary schooling. However, education must be viewed as a continuum. All levels are important”, the Director-General stressed.

The importance of establishing greater synergy was the third issue raised by Mr Matsuura. In this regard, he signalled the pivotal role of the High-Level Group on EFA in strengthening collaboration among all major stakeholders in education, namely national governments, donors, international organizations and civil society and the private sector.

Finally, Mr Matsuura drew attention to the financing gap for education. He called on national governments to sustain investment in education and on donors to honour their aid commitments. “Despite the pledge of G8 countries in 2005 to dramatically scale up funding for Africa, external aid remains far short of what is required to meet the education-related development goals. UNESCO’s EFA Global Monitoring Report estimates that around US$11 billion is required annually to achieve EFA, of which about 75% should go to Africa. Yet, aid to basic education in sub-Saharan Africa amounted to just US$2 billion in 2006. Donor agencies must therefore urgently increase funding, in particular to fragile states and least developed countries”, Mr Matsuura said.

On 30 May, at the close of the Conference, participants adopted the Yokohama Declaration and the Yokohama Plan of Action. These documents provide a framework for future international cooperation in support of African development. The appendix to the Yokohama Plan of Action outlines the concrete activities to be implemented, with UNESCO given an important role in several fields, notably education, HIV&AIDS and the consolidation of peace. The outcomes of TICAD IV will feed into the deliberations of the G8 Summit in Hokkaido in July, which will give special attention to achieving the MDGs in Africa, in particular in the areas of health, water and education.

During TICAD IV, the Director-General had the opportunity to greet many African Heads of State and Government, including President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania and Chair of the African Union, President Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, President François Bozize of Central Africa, President Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo, President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, President Omar Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, President Marc Ravalomanana of Madagascar, President Amadou Toumani Touré of Mali, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, President Ahmed El Bashir of Sudan and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. He also greeted the Prime Ministers of Algeria, Togo and Tunisia. In addition, Mr Matsuura spoke with the Japanese Premier, Mr Yasuo Fukuda, and former Prime Ministers Yoshirō Mori and Junichirō Koizumi, as well as Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura. On Friday 30 May, the Director-General returned to Tokyo for a bilateral meeting with the Japanese Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Mr Kisaburo Tokai.

At TICAD IV, UNESCO staged a major and well-attended intersectoral exhibition of posters, photos and publications highlighting the Organization’s action in Africa.

Author(s): Office of the Spokeswoman - Source: Flash Info N° 066-2008 -  Publication Date: 03-06-2008

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