The Annual Ministerial Workshop: Achieving the Internationally-agreed Goals on Education

Statement by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

Dear Colleagues

Thank you for joining us at this workshop today.

We count on your active participation here as we plan the priorities of the 2011 Annual Ministerial Review of ECOSOC.

In the last few years the AMR has served as a vital forum for information exchange on the Millennium Development Goals. Governments and the UN system have used the annual meetings to share best practices and lessons learned on the goals. These exchanges have resulted in stronger national and regional efforts to reach the goals.

At the 2010 AMR, ECOSOC adopted a Ministerial Declaration which emphasised the centrality of gender equality and empowerment of women among all development goals. With its widespread support, the Declaration served as a blueprint for the outcome document of the MDG summit – which also featured gender equality throughout.

The World Health Organization has used the ECOSOC AMR to highlight the challenges of non-communicable diseases. An AMR regional meeting on this issue was held in Qatar, and resulted in an urgent call for action in an ECOSOC Ministerial Declaration. We will now have a Summit on non-communicable diseases next year.

Let us keep the AMR momentum going strong.

At the 2011 AMR, the focus will be on putting education at the top of the UN development agenda.

Education is a catalyst for achieving all the MDGs. When all members of society have access to a primary school education, their collective poverty and hunger rates decrease and women’s rights improve.

In recent years, however, education has not received the attention and resources it deserves. ECOSOC should push for it to be a top priority again.

Let us use our time today to identify the most pressing issues on the education agenda and determine which approaches ECOSOC should promote to advance the issues.

In terms of school enrolment figures, we have seen them soar in some countries and remain stubbornly stagnant in others in the same region. What can ECOSOC – and the AMR in particular do to address these disparities?

We have learned that higher enrolments do not always translate into improved literacy rates. We need to develop creative, innovative ways to improve the quality of education while also holding on tight to the goal of universal access. How can we ensure that the two goals are pursued in tandem?

We need to make sure that education goals are viable given our current economic climate. Governments are increasingly asked to add new budget lines for crucial new endeavours like climate change financing. Today there are more competing development needs than ever before. How can the AMR generate creative solutions for countries to handle these competing needs while also emphasizing the importance of education financing?

Education is also seen as a key to increased employment.

Many developing countries face challenges in linking labour markets to educational institutions. Even though this issue is not directly linked to the MDG on education, it is a major development challenge and ECOSOC should address it.

I look forward to hearing the suggestions and feedback you give today on these issues.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

While UNDESA is the substantive home of ECOSOC within the UN Secretariat, ECOSOC belongs to everyone and should benefit from the knowledge of the entire UN system.

In this spirit, we invited you here today to share your expertise and ideas and to gain new knowledge from each other. Your involvement at this early stage in AMR preparations will help maximize its success.

I thank you once more for taking time in your busy schedules to attend this workshop.

I wish you success in your deliberations.