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Latest news > Speeches > Koïchiro, Matsuura
Address by Mr Koïchiro Matsuura , Director-General
of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
at the meeting of the Development Assistance Committee,
and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
 Education's Role in Poverty Reduction: UNESCO objectives and concerns
OECD, Paris, 2 October 2000
  Mr Chairman of the DAC Committee, Ladies and Gentlemen,
   My presence before you today is at once an honour and a crucial step in UNESCO's and my own personal efforts to take forward the Dakar Agenda. I thank you for your time.y.
 The DAC is in fact not new to me. I represented my country at the high-level DAC meetings in the 80s and, at my last, in 1989, was honoured to be the first to talk to the meeting's theme, which was "developed countries and development cooperation for the 1990s". I stressed on that occasion - yes, more than a decade ago! - that there was a need for country-specific approaches to development cooperation; a need for greater ODA resource flows; a need for strengthened aid evaluation. Those needs have been recognized, but not always met, I am sure you will agree.
 Ladies and Gentlemen,
  "The rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer"
   How often have we all heard this headline? It haunts us and it taunts us. It used to be associated with the North-South divide. Now, with the development of a global economy, the rift is widening between rich and poor within countries, even in the North. We know the human effects of social and economic dislocation and economic transition; of declining output, government revenues and household incomes; and of breakdown in public health and infrastructure. Some of them are alcoholism, family disruption, suicide, prostitution, drug use, crime, AIDS and tuberculosis. But the most serious effect is long-term structural poverty. The kind of structural poverty that has persisted in the South for decades, - despite all our good intentions.
  Permit me to mention briefly some indicators of this stark reality:

The number of people living in absolute poverty has increased. · Worldwide, some 1.3 billion people subsist on less than US$1 per day and nearly half of the world's population lives on less than US$2 per day.

800 million people are undernourished.1.3 billion people live without safe water. · By 2005, it is estimated that 51 per cent of people in Sub Saharan Africa will be living in absolute poverty. · More than 113 million children have no access to primary education.

In Sub Saharan Africa alone, it is projected that 50.7 million children will be out of school in 2005. · Functional illiteracy is gaining ground alarmingly.

One-sixth of the world's population aged 15 and over cannot read and write. · 880 million adults are illiterate. · Twice as many women as men are illiterate.

In some countries, HIV/AIDS, natural disasters and civil conflicts have set back social integration and accelerated the slide into poverty.

Unsustainable levels of debt are constraining the domestic policy choices of countries and sapping resources which otherwise could have been allocated for social services, including basic education and safe water, or poverty alleviation programmes.

  What is it we, the international community, have failed to do? What can we do better to live up to the commitments we made on so many different occasions during the 1990s? As we all agreed in Copenhagen at the World Summit for Social Development:

We commit ourselves to the goal of eradicating extreme poverty in the world through decisive national actions and international cooperation, as an ethical, social, political and economic imperative of humankind

   Although development has long been a major objective of UNESCO's programme, the Organization has not been consistently at the forefront of recent international debate and actions in the specific area of poverty eradication. But, in a world agenda that continues to evolve rapidly and requires the Organization to join forces with its partner agencies in the United Nations system and Member States, UNESCO has a core role to play, and is in a position to offer a significant added value to the collective thrust towards translating into reality the goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015.
  UNESCO's best contributions to poverty alleviation are to be found in areas in which no other organization possesses comparable expertise, experience or outreach. Indeed, UNESCO's fields of competence are critical for empowerment; for creating an enabling environment for people to participate actively in individual and social development through education, respect for human rights, cultural and historical sensitivity in policy design, environmental sustainability, and access to information for all.
  In its work, UNESCO encourages the application of knowledge and the mobilization of skills to solve problems recognized by the international community to be of utmost priority. As the United Nations' intellectual and ethical organization, UNESCO is well placed to advocate the moral as well as the political imperative of poverty reduction in the context of world peace and security.
  In the current international debate on poverty, a number of strategic issues are of special concern to UNESCO, including notably the human and cultural dimensions of poverty and anti-poverty policies; the issue of participation and ownership by developing countries, and - in relation to the broader dynamics of society as a whole - the socio-economic costs of poverty (environmental degradation, ignorance, disease, HIV/AIDS, disparities, tensions and conflicts).
  Operationally speaking, the Organization is therefore advocating a rights-based approach to development; working on improving understanding of the costs of poverty; promoting social cohesion and fighting exclusion; putting science and technology at the service of poverty reduction and development; strengthening impact assessment, monitoring and indicators, and, last but by no means least, empowerment through education and training.
  And so we come to my main point, and to the reason why I believe it is so important for me to be speaking to you today: education and training.
 UNESCO believes that it is vital to foster the development of an integrated concept of education, one that enables individuals to adapt to a rapidly changing social, economic and cultural environment, and to continue to learn throughout life. It is no longer enough to learn how to read, write and count. Learners must also learn to be, to do, to learn, and to live together - the four pillars of the life-long learning concept which UNESCO is promoting as an outcome of the Delors Commission's work on Education for the Twenty-first Century.
  Education's central role in societal development has been restated in recent thinking on economic development for high-quality growth. Such growth cannot be measured by economic results alone, such as those related to GNP per capita. It must also result in improved social conditions for the poor. Investment in education is essential to take full advantage of the leverage of human capital for future growth.
  This thinking permeates an increasing number of nations and the major funding agencies for education - the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. It also guides the development co-operation policies of a vast number of bilateral agencies and non-governmental organizations. Education was placed at the core of developing future knowledge-oriented societies at the recent G-8 meetings - education being regarded as, and I quote from the 1999 Cologne charter, 'indispensable to achieving economic success, civic responsibility and social cohesion'. Furthermore, the importance attached to education for poverty reduction led the G-8 leaders in Okinawa to commit themselves to:

Achieving the goals of universal primary education by 2015.

Achieving gender equality in schooling by 2005.

And of ensuring, and I quote from the Okinawa communique, 'that no government seriously committed to achieving Education for All would be thwarted in this achievement by lack of resources'.

  I might add that this last quote I regard as fundamental; it reflects perhaps one of the most significant achievements of the Dakar Forum.
  Poverty, then, cannot be tackled successfully and effectively unless the responses to all of its dimensions are fully integrated. A comprehensive concept of poverty-alleviation must capture both economic and human dimensions, and it requires a strategy based on integrated and cross-sectoral approaches. Given the enormity of both the challenge and the task, a concerted effort must be made by all development partners and national governments in the pursuit of the international goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015.
  Achieving Education for All forms part of that agenda.
  We need to know more about what makes education a powerful tool for poverty eradication. We need to understand the factors operating in specific local contexts that determine the outcomes of policies and strategies, and why the same policies do not achieve the same results in different contexts. In other words, we need to strengthen research and knowledge. UNESCO and OECD are both doing this as we develop indicators and guidelines for poverty reduction and for education.
  UNESCO's work in poverty eradication and Education for All is guided by three core concerns:

The first is to maximize the capacities of Member States to design pro-poor policies and define national action plans in the pursuit of Education for All.

The second is to create a deeper commitment to poverty eradication and a better understanding of the ways in which the persistence of poverty violates human rights and undermines the welfare of all.

The third is to engage the international community in a concerted effort to fulfil its stated commitments to EFA.

 A new Framework for Action to this effect was adopted by the World Education Forum. UNESCO was given a heavy responsibility for the follow-up to this Conference. It is committed to meeting that responsibility. Fully committed. And it will do so, as is natural, cooperatively. With other agencies, multilateral and bilateral. With NGOs. But first and foremost with Member States. As they have said and I willingly repeat, they are in the driver's seat. But they need massive international assistance.
  Let me therefore focus the remainder of my intervention on this make-or-break factor: the contribution by the world community to poverty reduction and Education for All in terms of financing.
  It can be rightly claimed that the international community has failed to fulfil its stated commitments regarding provision of financial resources.
 Of course, responsibility for resource provision rests mainly with national governments in the South. In the 1990s, it was sought to boost sustainable development in the South as a way of increasing national financial resources. This was done largely through promoting market-oriented strategies and strengthening the functioning of the State, the private sector, and civil society. The core concern was to achieve macro-economic stability, rapid economic growth and broad-scale participation in the benefits of that growth, thus in principle leading to poverty reduction.
  A mutually reinforcing relationship must be developed between macro-economic stability and structural reform on one hand, and growth and reduction of poverty and inequality on the other. As you are aware, the two are currently linked through new, integrated policy frameworks, such as the World Bank Comprehensive Development Framework, the United Nations Development Assistance Framework, Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, and the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative. It is also reflected in the 20:20 Initiative.
   What is the situation today? As members of the DAC, you know the situation well:

As a percentage of the combined GNP of DAC countries, Official Development Assistance has fallen by more than one-fifth in constant dollar terms from 1992 to 1997.

Trends in both the volume and share of total ODA for the least developed countries and for sub-Saharan Africa have been downward in recent years.

Private investment flows constitute the major proportion of overall financial flows. And,

Non-concessional disbursements constitute the major proportion of multilateral assistance.

 The international community can no longer afford to wait and see, despite certain reasons for optimism. We must remember that just to reach the goals of Education for All, we have a perceived funding gap of $8 billion per year. The international community must now mobilize itself, rethink the provision and modalities of aid, identify new financial sources and mechanisms, and show that it is capable of practising what it preaches.
  A development process oriented towards poverty alleviation should involve increasing both domestic resource mobilization in the South and private international capital flows. Concessional resources should catalyze the attraction and productive use of private capital, both foreign and domestic. The international community should assist in the design of strategies that will help to increase savings, attract private investments, improve the efficiency of local financial systems, manage and reduce debt, improve public financial management and make the best use of ODA.
  Much can thus be achieved through macro economic and sectoral reforms at the national level. Much can hopefully also be achieved through the consolidated work within integrated policy frameworks. But even more could be achieved if the international community made concerted efforts:

To achieve policy coherence.

To improve trade relations.

To ensure debt relief. o To increase aid.


To target the aid carefully and effectively.

  Parallel to that, new sources and modalities for international assistance must be exploited. In particular, we must examine options for forging new partnerships among the financial service industry, the state and civil society. We must build on the current interest of the private sector - partly through expanded collaboration with NGOs, private foundations and charitable organizations. We must continue to explore the possible benefits of adopting sector-wide approaches. And we must revisit the underlying conditionalities. .
  Mr Chairman,
Let me finish by making a plea in areas where OECD and DAC member countries could make a particular difference. OECD and DAC member countries, and in particular those with large economies, should again be reminded to:

Allocate a proportionately higher share of overall ODA to social development along the lines of the 20:20 Initiative.

Increase overall support for Education, with particular emphasis on basic education. This could be done, and this is what I propose, by stepping up support from the current $3.5 billion to $7 billion by 2005, $10,5 billion by 2010 and $14 billion by 2015, and within these target figures, by expanding significantly the proportion of those sums earmarked for basic education.

  Furthermore, it is vital for OECD and DAC to:

Ensure coherence among all development partners, the UN system and the development banks. UNESCO, for its part, will fully play the leadership role assigned to it in Dakar by coordinating the international community's delivery of its commitments and, in particular, facilitating more effective donor coordination.

Promote coordination at the country level through adoption of sector-wide approaches.

Help in ensuring monitoring of targets and goals for EFA nationally and internationally, in which UNESCO will play a key role.

  But, perhaps most of all, we must ensure that debt relief serves as an immediate catalyst for sustainable social and economic - including educational - development and poverty reduction. We must revisit the terms of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative and enhance the speed of its enactment, while carefully scrutinizing the context in each country.
  It is my hope and wish that meetings such as the one we are having today become instrumental in the fight against global poverty. Even if we all have much to learn still about the underlying causes and relationships that determine the state of poverty within nations, we do know enough to put preventive and counter-active measures into place. Doing so is not only our duty. It also means fulfilling the 'ethical, social, political and economic imperative of humankind' to which we committed ourselves five years ago in Copenhagen. We have the political will of States for the Dakar goals. We also need the financial will. This is in the interests of us all..
  Indeed, did not the World Bank and IMF, in a recent joint statement, indicate that industrial countries could best support sustainable growth and reduce poverty by, I quote, 'maintaining the health of their own economies, and thus contribute to a growing global economy from which all nations can benefit' ?
 As I have said, the onus is very much on developing countries, and those countries themselves have recognized this. But the momentum of donors' determination is crucial too. To help in reformulating strategies, we have prepared a preliminary discussion paper on financing. This comes as a draft which I am circulating to you today. We intend to consult other partners as well before it becomes an official document. Thank you in advance for your comment and reactions. They will be most important.
Thank you too for your attention.
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