05.07.2011 - ODG

Director-General Calls for A New Global Solidarity Compact at ECOSOC

© UN PHOTO/Jean-Marc Ferré - UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova addressing school students at a public event on the Place des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, during the ECOSOC High Level Segment on 4 July 2011.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova called for political commitment, innovation and partnership to bridge the gaps that are holding back progress towards Education for All, at the opening of the Economic and Social Council’s High Level Segment, at the United Nations in Geneva on 4 July 2011.

“Less than four years away from 2015, we cannot accept business as usual,” said Irina Bokova. “I am positive we can engage in a new global solidarity compact and start setting the agenda today for after 2015.”

The Director-General stressed the urgency of bridging gaps linked to equity, quality and financing.  “If we fail to reach the marginalized and to protect the vulnerable, we jeopardize our achievements,” said the Director-General, drawing special attention to girls and women, and protecting education in conflict. She emphasized that “governments must act to invest out of the crisis through education, and the international community must act to meet the commitments it has made.”

Other keynote addresses at the opening included Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who made an impassioned plea to the audience. “We are at a turning point” he said. “We can either move forward and make every effort possible to meet the Millennium Development Goals in the next four years, or we end up with broken promises, broken dreams and broken trust.”

The Director-General also moderated a special policy dialogue on “Accelerating Progress on the Education for All goals,” with Erik Solheim, Minister of the Environment and Development Cooperation, Norway, Muhammad Nuh, Minister of National Education, Indonesia and Wendy Hawkins, Executive Director of the Intel Foundation.

Setting the stage for the discussion, the Director-General asked how more domestic resources and higher aid levels could be mobilized in the current economic context. 

Indonesia passed a constitutional amendment in 2002 that obliges the state to allocate at least 20 per cent of the total government budget to finance education, said Minister Nuh. Special incentives to teachers working in rural areas, scholarships for children from poorer families and a national quality assurance system were among measures cited by the Minister to improve access and achievement.

Minister Solheim singled out school fee abolition, teacher recruitment and mother tongue education as keys to unlocking progress. He stressed that “when political will is there, you can move, and many developing nations have been tremendously successful.”  Illustrating the potential of ICTs for transforming education, Ms Hawkins drew attention to the IntelTeach Programme that reaches 10 million teachers, a majority of them women. Aligning with national goals and designing culturally-sensitive materials are critical for ICTs to take root in any given education system, she said.

The Director-General was also a keynote speaker at a special face-to-face debate on “Education, Human Rights and Conflict.” 

“Quality education based on a universal culture of human right is the path to break cycles of violence and counter intolerance,” she affirmed. “The first obligation is to protect the right to education in conflict settings and to combat gender discrimination.” Ms Asma Jahangir, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan and laureate of the 2010 UNESCO Bilbao Prize, noted that “investing in the wrong kind of education can fuel conflict. There are children who are being taught to hate other communities,” she said. “Education has to prepare children to live in pluralistic societies, as citizens of the world.”

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