UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS ECOSOC EXTRA EFFORTS ARE NEEDED TO ACHIEVE ALL THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
ECOSOC Continues High-Level Debate on Implementing Agreed Goals in Regard to Education
7 July 2011
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this afternoon told the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that the 2011 Millennium Development Goals report painted a mixed picture. On the one hand, it was clear that the Millennium Development Goals had made a tremendous difference. However, achieving all the Millennium Development Goals would require extra effort as progress was not universal, nor were the benefits evenly shared.
In a keynote address to ECOSOC, Secretary-General Ban said the 2011 Millennium Development Goals report painted a mixed picture. On the one hand, it was clear that the Millennium Development Goals had made a tremendous difference. They had raised awareness and shaped the broad vision that remained the overarching framework for development work across the world. Hundreds of millions had been lifted from poverty. Global poverty was expected to dip below 15 per cent by 2015, well ahead of the original 23 per cent target. At the same time, progress had been uneven. The poorest of the poor were being left behind. Some of the world’s poorest nations had made some of the largest strides towards reaching universal enrolment in primary education. On health, targeted interventions such as vaccination campaigns had reduced child mortality.
Secretary-General Ban said achieving all the Millennium Development Goals would require extra effort. Even where rapid growth had been seen, as in East Asia and other parts of the developing world, progress was not universal, nor were the benefits evenly shared. The report stressed that equal opportunity for all was vital to these efforts. Getting girls into school was a first critical step. Gender parity in primary and secondary education was still beyond reach in many regions. Moreover, enrollment disparities were notable between girls from wealthy families and girls from poorer families. This disparity was significantly greater for girls than for boys. A similar situation was faced with child mortality. The agreed deadline of 2015 was fast approaching. A rejuvenated global partnership for development was needed.
The Council also continued its general debate on the reports of the Secretary-General on implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments on education – the theme of the High-Level Segment - and current global and national trends and challenges and their impact on education.
In the general debate, speakers reaffirmed their commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All goals. Education contributed to the foundation for achievement of economic, social and cultural rights and constituted an important vector in building a sustainable future. Lack of educational development could impede investment and competitiveness. Educational systems were not properly equipped for imparting skills to human resources to match the dynamic labour-market requirements in the context of globalization. Least developed countries continued to struggle with enormous economic, human and social development challenges, structural constraints and unique difficulties. Maintaining the current levels of expending and covering additional costs for improving the quality of education remained significant challenges for least developed countries.
Creative thinking and collective action were required to accelerate progress towards achievement of these goals, speakers said in the general debate. Education reform should focus on the key issues of equity, access and quality. Promoting professional development of teachers and teacher training was important in assuring quality education. Building knowledge-based human capability, promoting innovation for balanced and sustainable socio-economic development and strengthening both information and the information technology industry were also identified as key strategies. Values based and skills based education were important in promoting a culture of non-violence and peace and protecting the planet. Speakers thanked international institutions for their support in improving and expanding educational coverage. International donors and international bodies needed to significantly expand support to primary education to make up the lack of resources from other sources.
Taking the floor were Gyan Chandra Acharya, Permanent Representative of Nepal of the United Nations in New York, on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, El-Hadj Mohamed II Cissé, Minister for Cooperation of Guinea, Pablo Cevallos Estarellas, Vice-Minister of Education of Ecuador, Benjalug Namfa, Inspector-General, Ministry of Education of Thailand, Slimane Chikh, Permanent Observer for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Katrien Beeckhman on behalf of Goli Ameri, Under-Secretary-General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Antonio Marzano, President of the International Association of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions, Marco Toscano Rivalta on behalf of Margareta Wahlstrom, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Reduction, and Kishore Singh, Special Rapporteur on the right to education.
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: International Alliance of Women, International Eurasia Press Fund, Save the Children, and International ATD Fourth World.
Also this afternoon, in a parallel meeting, the Council heard national voluntary presentations by Mauritius, Belarus and Senegal, followed by an interactive discussion.
The next meeting of the Council will take place at 10 a.m. on Friday, 8 July 2011, when it will hold a thematic round table on “Education for the future – changing needs.” At 12:30 p.m., the Council will adopt the Ministerial Declaration and conclude the High-Level Segment.
Address by the Secretary-General of the United Nations
BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said he was pleased to be here to launch the 2011 Millennium Development Goals report. The report painted a mixed picture. On the one hand, it was clear that the Millennium Development Goals had made a tremendous difference. They had raised awareness and shaped the broad vision that remained the overarching framework for development work across the world. They had fuelled action. Hundreds of millions had been lifted from poverty. Despite the global economic downturn and the food and energy crises, they were on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals targets for poverty reduction. Global poverty was expected to dip below 15 per cent by 2015, well ahead of the original 23 per cent target. At the same time, progress had been uneven. The poorest of the poor were being left behind. They needed to reach out and lift them into the lifeboat.
It was time for equity, inclusion, sustainability and women’s empowerment. Investing in human capital should be the strategy and touchstone. Some of the world’s poorest nations had made some of the largest strides towards reaching universal enrolment in primary education. The goal was now to ensure similar results in secondary and tertiary education, to make sure boys and girls had equal opportunity and ensure the education they received was quality education. On health, targeted interventions such as vaccination campaigns had reduced child mortality. Malaria was less deadly thanks to the wide distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets. The Millennium Development Goals report also showed strong results on HIV prevention and treatment. Secretary-General Ban stated that he expected to see this momentum continue with the new targets and resources adopted by world leaders at last month’s HV/AIDS Summit in New York. There was also good news on tuberculosis.
The Secretary-General said that achieving all the Millennium Development Goals would require extra effort. Even where rapid growth had been seen, as in East Asia and other parts of the developing world, progress was not universal, nor were the benefits evenly shared. Stubbornly high unemployment persisted in rich and poor countries alike. And in many cases, the wealth gap was widening. Solid gains in school enrolment and gender parity hardly signaled mission accomplished. The pace of education reform had slowed measurably in terms of both access and quality. The state of maternal health was also worrying. Limited access to proper care made pregnancy a needlessly high health risk in many developing countries. Sanitation too, left much to be desired. More than 2.6 billion people still lacked access to flush toilets and other basic forms of safe sanitation. A real and growing threat to the Millennium Development Goals was posed by non-communicable diseases. This would rightly be the focus of a high-level meeting at the United Nations in September.
Secretary-General Ban said the report stressed that equal opportunity for all was vital to these efforts. Getting girls into school was a first critical step. Gender parity in primary and secondary education was still beyond reach in many regions. Moreover, enrollment disparities were notable between girls from wealthy families and girls from poorer families. This disparity was significantly greater for girls than for boys. A similar situation was faced with child mortality. There were huge differences in survival rates between children with educated mothers and those with unschooled mothers. They should protect against the domino effect – in which one early deprivation led to another.
The agreed deadline of 2015 was fast approaching, said the Secretary-General. A rejuvenated global partnership for development was needed. Breakthroughs in trade negotiations and in climate action were needed. Resilience to shocks be they conflicts, natural disasters or volatility in food energy prices needed to be built. Next year’s Rio +20 conference needed to be a success. When the Millennium Development Goals were first articulated, they knew that achieving them would be only half the job. They knew that too many men, women and children would go largely untouched by even the best efforts. That was why work with all partners to sustain the momentum and to carry on with an ambitious post-2015 development agenda had already started. The report launched was meant to help meet this shared test of their common humanity. He looked forward to their contributions.
DAYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA, Permanent Representative of Nepal to the United Nations, speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said that while access to education had generally improved substantially, more recent progress was disappointing. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia girls in poorer households were 3.5 times more likely to be out of school, and the gender gap persisted and limited progress on various goals. Educational systems were not properly equipped for imparting skills to human resources to match the dynamic labour-market requirements in the context of globalization. It remained a huge challenge for developing countries to maintain the current levels of expending and to cover additional costs for improving the quality of education. The fulfillment of existing official development aid commitments by the developed partners was needed, but it was also necessary to identify innovative approaches for resource mobilization, to ensure adequate funding for education. Information and communication technologies must be implemented fully and their potential should be exploited in improving access, quality and equity in education. Least developed countries continued to struggle with enormous economic, human and social development challenges, structural constraints and unique difficulties. The Istanbul Programme of Action for least developed countries for the decade 2011-2020 had listed important policy measures for improving education rates and quality, increasing literacy and numeracy rates and eliminating gender disparities; however, this would require sustained investment in the education sector, strong international support and that of development partners, in order to ensure an effective implementation of this plan of action.
EL-HADJ MOHAMED II CISSE, Secretary-General, Ministry of International Cooperation of Guinea, said that in an international context that was marked by socio-political changes in many parts of the world and the adoption of the Istanbul Action Plan, education played a key role in the socio-economic development of States. Education was as vital as health and development for societies, particularly in Africa, where 20 million children lacked access to primary education, often in rural zones, or in the context of conflict and pandemics. In 2008 Guinea adopted an ambitious programme for the period 2008-2015, in the context of the Education for All programme, with the objective of increasing access to primary education; improving infrastructure, equipment and teachers’ training; and promoting good governance in public expenditure on education. Over 20 per cent of the Government’s budget was allocated to education, of which 50 per cent was destined to primary education. A review of this programme in 2011, however, noted with concern that the goal of education for all was not likely to be achieved by 2015. Many partners and organizations were looking at further alternatives and sources of funding for financing education. The programme for education in Africa presented by Germany promoted a number of important initiatives to address the challenges of education and improve access, quality and gender parity. Education was a key factor for the development of Africa and Mr. Cisse hoped that this plea for education would be heard by partners and donors.
PABLO CEVALLOS ESTARELLAS, Vice-Minister of Education of Ecuador, said the objective of the statement was to highlight the progress of Ecuador in the education sector between 2007 and 2011. There had been quantitative and qualitative improvements. Education was a priority of public investment. Ecuador was fully committed to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. In order to do so, Ecuador had increased the coverage of education services and had prohibited the collection of school fees and among other actions. In 2010, Ecuador achieved a net enrollment of 95.6 per cent. More women than men were now enrolled in secondary level. Ecuador had also decentralized educational services, bringing decisions on educational services closer to the population. Ecuador had established incentives for educators to be real actors of change. A more robust system of admission into the teaching profession was being implemented. Continuing training of teachers and administrators of schools was provided. Ecuador was working to increase the status of the teaching profession. The budget of the Ministry of Education had been significantly increased, a 145 per cent increase of education budgetary expenditures, in terms of proportion of gross domestic product.
BENJALUG NAMFA, Inspector-General, Ministry of Education of Thailand, said that Thailand, as the birthplace of the Education for All agenda over 20 years ago, had always given high priority to education. Thailand’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and the six Education for All goals was reflected in ongoing education reform, which focused on the key issues of equity, access and quality. Changes had been made to the organizational structures, including the promotion of decentralization and the creation of innovative learner-centred teaching practices. Thailand had highlighted lifelong learning and emphasized non-formal and informal education, as well as the expansion of learning opportunities for students of all ages, the workforce and the disadvantaged. Despite the global crisis, the Thai Government had launched the provision of 15-year free education. The Government’s additional funding had helped ensure education attainment prospects and life options were not compromised due to financial constraints. The quality of education was also highlighted in current education reforms. To ensure wider access to education, Thailand was currently introducing information technology into education. Thailand believed that the need to accelerate progress toward achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All goals called for creative thinking and collective action.
SLIMANE CHIKH, Permanent Observer of the Organization of Islamic Conference, said that education as a foundation for the achievement of economic, social and cultural rights was an important vector in building a sustainable future. Thus democratization of political life and economic performance remained crucial challenges in the field of education. Knowledge and learning required equality of access and quality education. Inclusive education for marginalized groups and in particular women and girls was important to promote cohesion and strong investments were needed to achieve these goals. On the other hand, democracy required of educated citizens to be aware of their rights and duties as well as different socio-economic choices. In these times of political and institutional crises the role of an educated and informed youth would not have been possible without progress in access to education, however further initiatives were necessary to promote the training of teachers and continue financing of education. The Organization of the Islamic Conference had set up a specialized organization to promote education, science and culture; and to ensure that the right to education was achieved along with gender equality and reducing illiteracy. The action plan for the decade 2005-2015 also included a particular emphasis on the need to address unequal access to education at a national level as well as among countries, inequalities of access to quality education and the need to provide opportunities for employment; to achieve this goals, international cooperation and solidarity was required within and beyond the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
KATRIEN BEECKMAN, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, reading out a statement on behalf of GOLI AMERI, Under-Secretary-General, Humanitarian Diplomacy Division, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that a high quality education could change a child’s life. Education created opportunities for individuals, lifted people out of poverty, and contributed to the economy and the sustainable development of communities and nations. Children required cognitive and technical skills to be productive, enter the workforce and participate in a globalized world. Education should promote a culture of non-violence and peace; and schools should impart vital skills, tolerance, mutual respect, and the ability to live peacefully. The initiative “Youth as agents of behavioural change” was an example of the power of skills-based education in a non-formal context. The promotion of a culture of non-violence and peace would be part of the agenda of the thirty-first International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and they called upon Governments to reflect on institutionalizing humanitarian values and skills-based education that nurtured a culture of non-violence and peace through formal and informal education.
ANTONIO MARZANO, President of the International Association of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions, emphasized the delays present in meeting the Millennium Development Goals as well as specific accomplishments in this regard. The second objective of the Millennium Development Goals, which covered education, would probably not be met, although it was considered to be a fundamental aspect in development strategy. This could have an effect on competitiveness and investment and the wider economy. The main factors preventing the achievement of educational objectives were the low level of social, economic and environmental governance and the lack of international commitment in combating poverty. The International Association of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions called on governments and the private sector to support good governance and to improve the lives of the disadvantaged. Civil society should join with governments in drafting, evaluating and implementing education sector policy. Performance indicators should be used. Civil society should be capable of making the necessary adjustments for ensuring quality education. International donors and international bodies needed to significantly expand support to primary education to make up for the lack of resources from other sources. Particular stress needed to be focused on Africa and Southwest Asia. The International Association of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions asked that the United Nations organise a conference regarding contributions in order to mobilize funds for supporting education, based on the commitments made in Dakar.
MARCO TOSCANO RIVALTA, United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, delivering a statement on behalf of MARGARETA WAHLSTROM, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, said disasters seriously impended access to education. Losses incurred in disasters were exactly the investments needed to improve health, education and welfare to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The international community did not recognize that disaster risk, climate risk and alleviation of poverty should be the framework used to consider management of water, electricity and other resources. One hundred and seventy-five million children were likely to be affected by climate change disaster alone. Schools should be disaster resilient. Ensuring the safety of children and teachers was key to expanding investments in this area. School safety was an economically and politically worthwhile long-term investment. There was far too little progress in this domain. Education saved lives. Integrating risk reduction into school curriculum, retrofitting school facilities, teacher training and allocating budget funds to these aims were key interventions.
KISHORE SINGH, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, said that the right to education, as mentioned by a number of statements, remained an important instrument to make further progress in the achievement of internationally agreed goals, but its importance had not been sufficiently emphasized. Among other obligations, as interpreted by the United Nations human bodies, he underlined the responsibility to provide quality primary education as a fundamental right, and the realization of the right for basic education for all without discrimination, particularly with regards to disparities. In particular, the obligation to eliminate gender equity and parity at all educational levels was underlined by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In the context of the anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development it was important to re-emphasize the links between development and education.
LYDA VERSTEGEN, of International Alliance of Women, emphasised the existence of physical barriers that obstructed girls’ access to education. Among them were early marriages and pregnancies; violence and sexual harassment by teachers and schoolmates, which made it dangerous for girls to attend school; child labour as a source of income or to work at home; and traditional practices of making girls less attractive to boys were noted, such as breast ironing. The International Alliance of Women urged countries to include the subject of early marriage, early pregnancy and harmful traditions in all information services for parents; to prevent pregnant girls and young mothers from dropping out; to provide comprehensive sexuality education for boys and girls in school; to prosecute teachers guilty of rape or who committed other forms of violence; and to make schools safer for girls.
UMUD R. MIRZAYEV, of International Eurasia Press Fund, said education was a main focus of the activities of the International Eurasia Press Fund. After Azerbaijan became independent, it had adopted western systems of education, but there was still much room for reform. Good quality education was a priority of recent reforms made by the Government. A 2005 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization conference recognized gaps in education and illuminated strategies for moving beyond the gaps in the education sector. Rural areas lagged behind urban areas. There was also the problem of drop outs. Parents sometimes felt children could be of better use working in business or elsewhere. Conflict in Azerbaijan destroyed schools and forced people to leave their homes. The International Eurasia Press Fund provided professional and technical training centres and other education opportunities for victims of war, refugees, internally displaced people and others. They recommended that the Economic and Social Council should have high-level meetings, continue dialogue and step up regional activities, and raise its voice to end destruction from conflict and ensure refugees and others could return home.
ELIN MARTINEZ, of Save the Children, said 28 million children were out of school because of conflict and disasters. Without these children in school, the Millennium Development Goal on education would not be met. Save the Children emphasized that children should have access to education regardless of their situation. Education had not been prioritized in humanitarian emergency work or sufficiently funded in these situations. States should be held accountable for securing an equal right to a quality education and adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law. States should reflect commitments to education in national budgets secure essential funding for education in emergencies and protect education by implementing the key recommendations of the General Assembly resolution on the right to education.
MEGUMI FURUBAYASHI, of International Movement ATD Fourth World, said that extreme poverty was a key challenge affecting the achievement of internationally agreed goals related to education. The concept of education for all must be adapted according to the cultural context, reflecting ethnic, gender, rural and urban differences. The concept of education must emphasize extending and complementing the education provided by the community and working with parents to ensure that children received an education that would help them improve the living conditions and those of their community. Trust between teachers, children and parents in poverty needed to be enhanced. The provision of free and quality education for all needed to be enhanced.
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