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Address to the 33rd General Conference of UNESCO, 10 October 2005, Minister Naledi Pandor speeches

 

Address  by Minister Naledi Pandor to the 33rd General Conference of UNESCO

 

10 October 2005

Mr President of the General Conference

Distinguished delegates

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Introduction

It is a privilege and honour for South Africa to contribute to this very important series of debates. Allow me, Mr President, to express my congratulations to you on your election as President of this conference and to congratulate the Director-General and his team for what has so far been an excellent conference.

The conference has afforded us an opportunity to reflect on our progress as governments and multi-lateral institutions in the challenging task of pursuing world development and increased equality of opportunity for all people who desire education.

In our various discussions all of us have acknowledged the important obligation all governments have to ensure that education provision is fully funded, is of higher quality and satisfies national, individual and societal expectations for development. We have also acknowledged that the recent summit statement of heads of state was correct in its conclusion that Africa is “not on track to meet the goals of the millennium declaration by 2015” and that much of the developing world lags far behind in terms of the levels of progress that would guarantee achievement of the MDGs.

Our debates have also confirmed the significant role that UNESCO has played and will continue to play in ensuring that we do achieve education for all.

Africa is appreciative of the role and position that UNESCO has taken with respect to our continental aspirations. UNESCO was the first of the specialised UN agencies to integrate the NEPAD programme of the African Union into all its programmes and projects for Africa and to set up a UNESCO/NEPAD Joint Committee. The African Union plans to hold a special summit focussed on education and culture in January 2006. We are sure UNESCO will be a core participant in this important meeting.

Education

In the New York Summit Outcome Document a commitment was made to support and fund the Education For All Fast Track Initiative. This commitment should provide impetus to the initiatives of UNESCO, and support the organisation in moving forward decisively. 

UNESCO’s EFA Global Monitoring Report for 2005 also acknowledges that, “massive educational deprivation continues to be concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa”. Our EFA Round Table has stressed the need for countries to accelerate progress if we are to meet the targets we have set ourselves.

Despite country reports of progress, it is clear an extraordinary effort will be required to ensure that countries that are not meeting agreed goals are directly assisted to succeed.

South Africa’s EFA monitoring report points to positive progress. We have reached universal primary enrolment, and have enrolment rates of nearly 90% in our secondary schools. We have achieved gender parity; in fact girls now constitute a majority in our secondary schools.

We are also alert to the fact that SA’s development is strongly linked to that of the entire continent and that we must share the concerns of countries that continue to lag behind, while also utilising some of our educational resources to assist wherever possible.

We believe UNESCO must be supported to do more to strengthen system and implementation capacity in countries that are still to achieve the EFA goals.

We have now reached a stage where we must move beyond the minimal goals of EFA. Effective technical and vocational education, and knowledge production through higher education are vital if our countries and our people are not to remain trapped in a cycle of poverty, of underdevelopment, and dependence.

Similarly, while access is critical, a growing focus on the quality of education is also essential. I am, therefore, pleased to indicate that, with the support of UNESCO, the Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Measuring Education Quality (SACMEQ) is trying to understand and promote quality education in our countries.

SACMEQ focuses on research into quality and learning outcomes in the 15 member states. The research findings are proving to be useful indicators for policy and practice. We, as the SACMEQ ministers, are also excited by the link that SACMEQ and the UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning have created between seasoned researchers and young African scholars.

We also wish to express our appreciation to UNESCO and the OECD for taking the initiative to develop guidelines for the cross-border provision of higher education. The guidelines will assist many countries in addressing emerging challenges.

Values and Education

Our deliberations in the past week have also focused on matters beyond access to education. The issues of peace and development and the important obligation of promoting sustainable development are some of the critical areas we need to integrate into our education systems. UNESCO has a unique opportunity to promote sustainable development through the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. The role of our curricula in these objectives must be continually assessed. The South African constitution celebrates the racial, linguistic and religious diversity of our people, and we have constructed a curriculum based on human rights, social justice, inclusivity, and respect for the environment.

World Heritage

In July this year South Africa hosted the 29th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Durban. It was the first time in the thirty-year existence of the Committee that it met in sub-Saharan Africa. We wish to extend our appreciation to all the member states and to UNESCO for the support and assistance we received in making the meeting such a successful one, and also for the declaration of a sixth World Heritage Site in South Africa.

One of the key outcomes of the meeting was the adoption of an African Position Paper for the protection, conservation, and sustainable management of African world heritage. A proposal was also accepted for the creation of an African World Heritage Fund, whose aim is to supplement the work that UNESCO and the World Heritage Fund is already doing in Africa. We express our appreciation to those member states that have already committed themselves to support Africa in this endeavour, and call on others to contribute to this fund to ensure that the valuable legacy of Africa to the world is not lost.

We are in favour of UNESCO’s initiatives for safeguarding the natural and cultural heritage of the world, and in particular in vulnerable areas such as the Old City of Jerusalem. During the Committee meeting in Durban we had an opportunity to receive, and to make public, the results of a study made of the potential world heritage sites in Palestine. We recognise the many contributions that made this possible, and we urge the continuation of this initiative.

Cultural Diversity

The new convention on the protection of cultural diversity presents a further opportunity for progress in heritage matters. The South African chair of the commission, Professor Asmal, and the team he worked with must be commended for their excellent work.

In New York the Heads of State and Government committed to respect, preserve and maintain indigenous and local communities’ knowledge, innovations and practices. This is a global commitment to, and endorsement of, the principles that lie at the very heart of the draft convention.

Resources

UNESCO obligations require it to be more effective, better aligned to global priorities, and closely integrated into the UN system; this means renewed pressures on its human and financial resources.

We therefore acknowledge with great appreciation the efforts of the Director-General to ensure the optimum efficiency of the organisation. We congratulate Director General Matsuura on his deserved nomination for re-election.

Conclusion

Mr President, as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations and of UNESCO, we need to pursue our goals of peace and international stability, and the empowerment of the poor and the vulnerable of our world, with even greater vigour and enthusiasm. We need to be brave and act decisively, to ensure that the mandate of UNESCO is implemented fully and effectively. In a globalising world, our futures are common, and our failures are shared. Let us commit today to a new compact in which the success of some is used for the good of all.

I thank you.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 6/30/2008
Number of Views: 840

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