High-Level Segment of the Economic and Social Council

Closing Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of The 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development

H.E.Mr. Lazarous Kapambwe, President of the Economic and Social Council
Honourable Ministers,
Distinguished Delegates,

We have reached the end of this year’s High-Level Segment; a round of congratulations is, I believe, in order.

Congratulations to the President — for his steady stewardship of ECOSOC; for overseeing this week’s rich programme of events; and for helping the Council elevate education to the top of the development agenda.

Congratulations to all the delegations — for hammering out a broad agreement on the Ministerial Declaration back in New York, thus offering Ministers the opportunity to concentrate on policy, not politics here in Geneva.

The Declaration itself is a remarkable document: succinct yet thorough, one which addresses educational access, quality, funding, partnerships and all other major areas of concern.

The Declaration is a model document in other ways, too.

It navigates the considerable education challenges of the moment, while casting a thoughtful eye to emerging issues on the horizon — areas like secondary and tertiary education, information technology and lifelong learning.

Another word of congratulations is owed to Member States — this time for backing recent efforts to strengthen the Council’s work.

Such efforts have paid off. Five years on, the Annual Ministerial Review has developed into a potent symbol of how countries of all size and stature can partner together to help make the world a better place.

I am also pleased to note that the AMR’s National Voluntary Presentations continue to draw rave reviews — further evidence that an interactive, “hands-on” format filled with compelling country case studies works well.

As for education, what more can be said?

It empowers individuals, molds better citizens and creates more just, prosperous societies.

But make no mistake: enrolment alone is not learning. What goes on in the classroom is ultimately what counts. In order to maximize the benefits of schooling, we must reflect long and hard on what we teach our children — and how.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The going now will only grow tougher. After all, if reforming the world’s education systems were easy, the job would already be done.

Positive change will demand tackling the special interests perpetuating the unacceptable status quo.

And though success is there for the taking, it must also be earned.

But rest assured, the reinforcements have arrived — for the full weight and resources of the Economic and Social Council and UN system will be with you each step of the way.

I thank you.