Director-General Pledges UNESCO’s Support to Philippines’ Millennium Development Goals-Driven Plan
Commending President Benigno Aquino for his strong commitment to education and sustainable development, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova pledged support to the country’s ambitious plan to address a range of social and environmental concerns, during her first official visit to the Philippines from March 24-26, 2011.
“Your budget increase to education is a sign of strong political will and leadership, and we want to support your development plan.” Ms Bokova told President Aquino in a meeting at Malacañang Palace on 25 March. “I wish to congratulate you on the country’s progress towards education for all and your efforts to address problems in quality and retention, through building new schools and training teachers.” The government also plans to extend compulsory education from the current ten to twelve years. The President has stated on numerous occasions that failing to meet the MDGs is not an option.
Seated below a portrait of his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, the president, who took office in June 2010, stated that “we are making funds available for social concerns – public health, maternal health and education.” He also stated that his country “is really feeling the effects of global climate change” and taking measures to reduce pollution in urban centres, notably through converting to electricity-powered tricycles and buses.
Referring to a recent UNESCO technical mission to the Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras, a site on the World Heritage in Danger List, Ms Bokova praised efforts of authorities at all levels to improve the site’s management, offering UNESCO’s assistance in areas of sustainable tourism and infrastructure. She also proposed support to assist in striking a balance between preservation and economic development in the Palawan Biosphere Reserve, where the issue of mining has come into the international spotlight. President Aquino explained that a ban on mining would open the way to small, unregulated mining, affirming that the government’s policy was to strike a balance and preserve the environment.
The Director-General expressed appreciation for the country’s leadership in promoting cultural and interfaith dialogue, an initiative in direct resonance with UNESCO’s mandate. The President also drew attention to his government’s effort to advance the peace process in the southernmost Mindanao region.
Over the course of her visit, Ms Bokova gained a broad view of the country’s development challenges and priorities -- from education and the promotion of cultural diversity to disaster risk preparedness and peace-building.
For Secretary of the Department of Education, Brother Armin Luistro, “the sheer numbers are the major challenge of Filipino education”. Partnerships with the private sector, alternative delivery modes for training teachers, sensitivity to the country’s different cultural groups and enhancing learning through the use of information and communication technologies were some of the strategies being explored to universalize access and improve quality.
In a round table with executive and legislative officials and civil society leaders, representing gender, ecology and education committees, the Director-General gained insight into policies on gender, ecology, education and culture. The dialogue opened areas for cooperation, including education for sustainable development, gender mainstreaming and teacher training.
“We have a very strong and long relationship,” said Albert Del Rosario, the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs. “We have been part of many initiatives with UNESCO and we hope to be able to strengthen these, especially under your leadership.”
Ms Bokova also met with Mr Haruhiko Kuroda, president of the Asian Development Bank, who explained that inclusive growth, environmental sustainability and international cooperation were the Bank’s three strategic objectives. The Director-General and Mr Kuroda agreed to work together to institutionalize cooperation in the field of water management, disaster risk reduction and education.
The Director-General held an hour-long discussion with the UN Country Team, headed by Resident Coordinator Dr Jacqui Badcock. The United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for 2012-2018 is closely aligned with the government’s pro-MDG agenda and human rights approach to development. The UNDAF incorporates UNESCO concerns, including education, science and technology for climate change adaptation, culture and communications for development, gender equality and peace building. “We inscribe ourselves fully in efforts to deliver as one and our office in Indonesia has our total support to contribute to the country team,” said Ms Bokova.
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