02.03.2015 - Social and Human Sciences Sector

East African Ministers of Social Development united for Global Justice

© UN Photo - Stuart Price

The 1st Forum of Ministers of Social Development for the Eastern African region took place in Nairobi, Kenya, from 24 to 26 February 2015. Organized by the Government of Kenya through the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO, in cooperation with UNESCO's Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme, the Forum concluded with the adoption of the Ministerial "Nairobi Declaration on Global Justice" on 26 February.

The Declaration outlines the challenges for the region in achieving social justice, and contains 17 policy recommendations including:

  • "Urge the international community to place poverty eradication and reduction of inequalities at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals, which are expected to form a key component of the Post-2015 Development Agenda";
  • "Further urge Member States to specifically highlight the importance of education at all levels, the sciences and technological advancement, and culture, as key drivers of development, and consequently to invest in strengthening these areas in Eastern Africa";
  • "Call on the African Union Commission to consider hosting a continental MOST Ministerial Forum";
  • "Commit to strengthening the social and human sciences by working in close co-operation with academic and research communities at the national, regional and international levels to produce knowledge and research relevant to addressing problems related to social transformations", and
  • "Hereby establish a network of senior officials, coordinated by the President of the Forum in cooperation with the MOST Secretariat, to ensure follow-up of recommendations, sharing of experiences, and enhanced effectiveness of the research-policy nexus".

The Government of Tanzania expressed its interest in hosting the second Forum in 2017. The Ministers elected a Bureau to serve until the second Forum as follows: 

  • President - Kenya;
  • Vice-President - Tanzania;
  • Rapporteur - Djibouti; and
  • Vice-Rapporteur - South Soudan.  

Ministers and their representatives from 13 countries in the region (Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda) shared best practices, their respective challenges and concerns to achieve justice and discussed how to address them. Forum participants included, among others, H.E the Permanent Delegate of Kenya to UNESCO, Dr Godia; the Secretary-General of the Kenya National Commission to UNESCO, Ms Evangelina Njoka; the African Union Commission; the East African Community; the International Labour Organization (ILO); the Secretary-General of Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA); the Deputy CEO of the Human Sciences Research Council (South Africa); the Special Advisor for the World Social Science Report 2016; representatives from civil society, youth organizations, and the Youth Ambassador from Kenya.

Of special value, in the perspective of South-South learning, was the presence of H.E. Ms Beatriz Tola, Minister of Social and Economic Inclusion from Ecuador and of H.E. Ms Dela Sowah, Deputy-Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection from Ghana. Ms Tola shared the experience from the Third Forum of Ministers of Social Development from Latin America held in Ecuador, in October 2014. Ms Sowah presented the Third Forum of Ministers of Social Development from the ECOWAS region held in Ghana, in December 2013. A representative of the President of the Intergovernmental Council of MOST, Ms Alicia Kirchner, Minister of Social Development from Argentina, highlighted the truly international nature of the MOST Programme.

The Forum included a Panel on "Population, Reproductive Health and Economic Well-Being: Policy Implications of Research from East Africa", chaired by the Vice-President of the IGC Bureau for Europe and North America, and Special Advisor of the Research Council of Norway, Mr Jan Monteverde Haakonsen; and a Panel discussion on "Youth, Employment, Entrepreneurial Promotion and Skills Development" chaired by Prof. Winnie Mithullah, Director for the Institute of Development Studies from the University of Nairobi.

The opening ceremony of the Forum included presentations of the Deputy President of the Government of Kenya, H.E. William Ruto; the Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Getachew Engida; and the two Ministers co-hosting the Forum - the Cabinet Secretary for Science, Technology and Science, Prof. Jacob Kaimenyi, and the Cabinet Secretary for Planning and Devolution, Ms Anne Waiguru. Also speaking were the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources of Kenya, and member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of MOST and the UN Secretary-General's Scientific Advisory Board hosted by UNESCO, Ms Judi Wakhungu; the Vice-President of Group Va (Africa), H.E. Ms Mary Khimulu; and the African Commissioner for Social Affairs, Dr Mustapha Sadiki Kalokoi. It was chaired by Dr Belio Kipsang, Principal Secretary, State Department of Education of Kenya.

The Deputy Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Getachew Engida, thanked the Government of Kenya for its leadership, both within UNESCO and in co-organizing the Forum with UNESCO's MOST Programme. He indicated that MOST is a UNESCO flagship programme, which has never been as important as it is today, at a time when UNESCO celebrates its 70th anniversary and 2015 is a turning point year – for the Millennium Development Goals and for the new global sustainable development agenda to follow.

In his keynote speech, Mr Pierre Sané, former UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, Founder and President of the Imagine Africa Institute, pointed out that terrorism can be prevented through focusing on the mandate of UNESCO: education, culture, the sciences and communication, drawing particular attention to the social and human sciences to inform policy-making.  He stressed the three overarching objectives of the outcome of the Copenhagen Summit on Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995): poverty reduction, the promotion of employment and social integration. He also talked of the Beijing Platform for Action (1995), saying that we have failed in implementing many of its commitments – making the values of UNESCO even more crucial. He regretted the declining funds provided to UNESCO to implement its programme.

The ministerial segment of the Forum was preceded by a senior official meeting (on 24 February) to exchange experiences and to discuss follow-up initiatives for the sustainability of the Forum.

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