“Education key to reaching development goals” UNESCO Director-General argues at MDG high-level event

“Education key to reaching development goals” UNESCO Director-General argues at MDG high-level event
  • © UN Photo/Cia Pak

On 25 September 2008, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, participated in the UN Secretary General’s high-level event on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in New York.

He also took part in several side-events aimed at boosting political and financial commitment to achieve the education-relation MDGs and the six goals of Education for All (EFA).

The Director-General served as co-rapporteur for the roundtable on education and health, together with the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Ms Margaret Chan. In helping to shape the final recommendations, Mr Matsuura argued that none of the global development goals adopted in 2000 could be reached without higher investment in education. He urged the importance of addressing the whole EFA agenda. He also called for greater links between the education and health sectors, highlighting the importance of education for reaching health targets, in particular the positive impact of early childhood and literacy programmes. UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for EFA, Her Royal Highness Princess Firyal, delivered a keynote address reinforcing these messages.

Also on 25 September, at an event organized by the Global Campaign for Education, Mr Matsuura joined world leaders and education advocates to launch the “Class of 2015” to build political will to achieve the EFA goals. Stakeholders pledged US$4.5 billion to education over the next three years, two-thirds of this for basic education. The Director-General hailed this as a decisive step forward, but reminded that promises, past and present, must be kept. “Today must go down as a day of real commitment”, Mr Matsuura said, adding that “the current economic slowdown and financial crisis cannot be a pretext for reneging on the fight against poverty”. The next meeting of the EFA High-Level Group in Olso in December will provide an opportunity to consider the policies required to translate this financial commitment into programmes that support educational quality and equity.

Earlier the same week, on Tuesday 23 September, Mr Matsuura organized a high-level debate on education financing, bringing together Ministers of Education, donors, multilateral organizations and representatives of civil society and the private sector. Special addresses were delivered by: Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missnad, First Lady of Qatar and UNESCO Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education; Mr Erik Solheim, Minister of the Environment and International Development of Norway; and Ms Elizabeth Ohene, Minister of State for Education of Ghana.

In his opening remarks the Director-General highlighted three key issues: first, the need for sustained national investment in education; second, the responsibility of donors to respect past pledges, to focus on countries most in need and to live up to the compact they made with developing countries in 2000; and third, the importance of pro-poor spending that serves the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in society.

Mr Matsuura welcomed President Hamid Karzai of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to address the closing of the event. “Under your leadership, the Afghan Government has made education the cornerstone of national reconstruction and development. Today, over six million Afghan children enjoy their fundamental right to education - the highest level of school enrolment in the country’s recent history. It is a great achievement”, the Director-General said in introducing the President. In recognition of the President’s determined leadership, and as a symbol of the close cooperation and understanding between UNESCO and the Government of Afghanistan, Mr Matsuura awarded President Karzai the collection of UNESCO Mawlana Jalal-ud-Din Balkhi-Rumi medals. In accepting the distinction, President Karzai said that the award went beyond his own person to honour the Afghan people. The Ambassador of Afghanistan to UNESCO, Mr Zahir Aziz, also addressed the award ceremony.

Also on 23 September, Mr Matsuura convened a meeting of senior representatives of the 5 EFA convening agencies to discuss ways of strengthening multilateral support to national education efforts. They addressed the need to adapt the EFA Global Action Plan to the rapidly changing aid and development context. They also spoke of how to reinvigorate top-level political support for EFA, and reinforce linkages between education and poverty reduction. The Director-General welcomed the renewed energy and spirit of cooperation among the Dakar 5, urging that this be reflected in high-level participation at the Oslo High-Level Group meeting in December. “The EFA goals are achievable. This is our starting point. Strong progress has been made since 2000. More children are in school than ever before. We are on the cusp of success. Now is not the time to lose momentum. Now is the time to renew our determination and redouble our efforts. As the convening agencies of Dakar, we must lead the way”, Mr Matsuura said.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 125-2008
  • 30-09-2008
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