UNESCO Director-General highlights need for greater investment in education and science at ECOSOC

UNESCO Director-General highlights need for greater investment in education and science at ECOSOC

From 30 June to 1 July, UNESCO Director-General Mr Koïchiro Matsuura participated in the substantive session of the ECOSOC High-Level Segment at United Nations Headquarters in New York, focused on the theme “achieving sustainable development”.

Mr Matsuura attended the opening session in the morning of 30 June, which concentrated on issues around global climate change, and included keynote addresses by Rajendra K. Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Lord Stern of Brentford, author of the Stern Review.

In the afternoon of the same day, the Director-General took part in the Development Cooperation Forum roundtable on “Identifying gaps and obstacles – Allocating more aid: where should it go?”. Mr Matsuura intervened to underscore the urgent need to channel more aid to education, in particular to the basic level. He noted that while education did not attract the same attention as global warming or the world food crisis, unless donors invested significantly more in the sector then developing countries would not meet their development goals. “Poverty simply cannot be eradicated when 75 million children are denied primary education and when 774 million adults – one in four adults in the developing world – lack basic literacy skills”, Mr Matsuura observed. He warned that without more aid the world could face an “education crisis”, which would not be easy to overcome given the long-term nature of the education process. “This crisis must therefore be averted at all costs”, he stated.

The Director-General lamented the fact that, despite recent promises, the vital importance of education to sustainable development was not reflected in donor priorities. “Overall funding for education falls far short of what is required to meet learner needs and aspirations in the 21st century. Even if recent pledges are met, aid will still only reach around US$6 billion by 2010, just over half of what is needed each year right now. The allocation of aid by level of education and by region and country is also inappropriate, impeding development in the world’s poorest nations”, Mr Matsuura said. He called for donors to urgently scale up their assistance, in particular to Africa. “If all donors were to dedicate 10% of their total aid to basic education, some US$10 billion a year could be made available by 2010. This is the scale of commitment needed if we are serious about meeting international development goals”, the Director-General argued.

In the morning of 1 July, Mr Matsuura held a ministerial roundtable breakfast meeting on “Science, Technology and Innovation Policy: Key to Sustainable Development”. The meeting was co-chaired by ECOSOC Ambassador, Mr Zina Andrianarivelo-Razafy of Madagascar, with interventions by Dr Hani Helal, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research of Egypt, and Professor Peter Msolla, Minister of Communication, Science and Technology of the United Republic of Tanzania. The roundtable attracted over 50 participants, including government officials, UN delegates, and representatives of NGOs and the private sector.

In his opening remarks, Mr Matsuura underscored the importance of science and technology to sustainable development, noting that developing nations were giving increased priority to this area as a key means to reduce poverty and fast-track economic growth. The Director-General highlighted the support UNESCO was providing to Member States in developing policy frameworks for science, technology and innovation (STI), in particular in Africa, where he said the Organizing was working closely with countries to implement the African Union Consolidated Plan of Action for Science and Technology. While emphasizing the importance of South-South cooperation for capacity development and the exchange of good practices, Mr Matsuura argued that “there is no one-size-fits-all STI policy. Such policies must be country- and context-specific”.

The Director-General underlined that for science policies to be effective they must be properly implemented, which he said required both capacity building, in terms of human resource and institutional development, and sustained public funding. Mr Matsuura also emphasized the need for science policy to strive for gender equality. “Governments must be encouraged to support women in this field, and to assist in their training”, he urged.

Mr Matsuura assured participants that UNESCO would continue to play a role as convener of high-level ministerial meetings on STI policies, helping countries to develop sound policy frameworks for research and development and build scientific and technological capacity. Here, Mr Matsuura said that the Organization could draw on the expertise of a network of UNESCO-affiliated centres for science, as well as the support of important stakeholders from across the UN system, civil society and the private sector.

In this context, the Director-General evoked the success of UNESCO’s collaboration with Egypt in the development of science parks, starting with the President Mubarak Science City. He also recalled his recent visit to the United Republic of Tanzania, praising President Kikwete for his initiative in creating a new ministry for science, and referring to how UNESCO was working with other UN agencies to support country priorities in STI through the “delivering as one” pilot active in the country.

During the breakfast meeting, Mr Matsuura had the occasion to discuss further with the Ministers of Egypt and the United Republic of Tanzania on progress in bilateral cooperation between UNESCO and their countries in the field of science.

While in New York, the Director-General also met with Kemal Derviş, Administrator of UNDP and chairman of the UN Development Group (UNDG). They discussed progress towards the signing of a new MOU between the two organizations, as well as recent developments in the “delivering as one” pilots and plans for the first meeting of the UNDG Advisory Board on UN country-level coherence.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash Info N° 087-2008
  • 04-07-2008
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