Press Conference on Partnering with Philanthropies to Promote Education for All

28 February 2011

Press Conference on Partnering with Philanthropies to Promote Education for All

28 February 2011
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Partnering with Philanthropies to Promote Education for All

Stressing the urgent need to extend basic schooling to all children, representatives of the United Nations and civil society organizations this afternoon welcomed over $16 million of private-sector grants and appealed for greater use of the resources and expertise of business to reach international goals in education.

“Partnering with business leaders and civil society is key”, stressed Michaëlle Jean, twenty-seventh Governor-General of Canada and current Special Envoy for Haiti for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), at a Headquarters press conference ahead of the Fourth Global Philanthropy Event, which was to be held later today and was expected to draw some 400 donor, corporate and civil society leaders.

The Event, on the theme “Partnering with the philanthropic community to promote education for all”, was organized by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UNESCO, the United Nations Office for Partnerships and the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy.

Joining Ms. Jean at the press conference were Susan Durston, Associate Director of Education Programmes for UNICEF, Olav Seim, Director of the Education for All Global Partnership Team; Petra Nemcova, Founder of the Happy Hearts Fund; Danielle Ryan, Representative of the Cathal Ryan Trust; Carlos Domínguez, Senior Vice-President of Cisco Corporation; Hikmet Ersek, President, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Western Union; and Jaime Barclay, Senior Philanthropy Specialist of the Symantec Corporation.

Moderating was Matthew Bishop, American Business Editor, New York Bureau Chief of The Economist and co-author of Philanthrocapitalism:  How Giving Can Save the World.  Introducing the panel, Mr. Bishop noted that today’s Philanthropy Event also served to mark International Corporate Philanthropy Day.  He read part of a message on the Day from United States President Barack Obama that affirmed that corporate donors enriched lives around the world through their skills, time, financial support and creativity.

Speaking on Haiti, Ms. Jean said that nearly a third of the population did not have a good basic education before the devastating January 2010 earthquake.  She described how needs were greatly magnified by the death and destruction of the seismic event.  Access to education was urgent to integrate young people into their countries’ efforts to build their economies and keep them away from destabilizing activities.

Ms. Durston of UNICEF welcomed an enhanced role for the private sector in the urgent effort to meet the Millennium Development Goals for education, which were lagging seriously as the 2015 deadline loomed.  She stressed the need for all stakeholders to work out sustainable solutions.

Ms. Nemcova of Happy Hearts said that her group focused on improving children’s lives through education following disasters.  She described her organization’s efforts in Haiti and elsewhere and welcomed the opportunity to learn from philanthropists and experts at today’s meeting. 

Cisco, as a leading technology firm, had been very involved in education and training, Mr. Dominguez said.  There were currently over 1 million people in its training programmes.  He stressed the complex nature of the global effort to boost access to quality education, which required the expertise of many sectors.

Mr. Seim of the Education for All initiative said stagnation in the effort towards universal access to education could be seen since 2005, which seemed to imply that not enough innovation was going on and that inadequate use was being made of the resources and expertise of the private sector.  There were many positive developments at the local level, but there was not enough knowledge on how such initiatives could be scaled up.

In response to questions following those presentations, the panel agreed on the importance of vocational training in addition to basic education, as well as the need to specifically address at-risk and vulnerable populations.

After that brief discussion, Ms. Ryan described the programmes in Sri Lanka that would be funded by the $14 million grant from her Trust to UNICEF, including school construction, remedial education for children who had missed school during the long conflict and related health, sports, sanitation and other projects.

Mr. Hikmet said that philanthropy should be in the DNA of corporations.  Noting that Western Union had impact on 5 billion people through remittances and other communications, he said that what was “good for business was good for society,” ultimately.  Western’s Union’s $1.1 million grant would go to the United Nations for initiatives in Philippines and Morocco, to UNICEF for projects in Haiti, and for the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to stimulate more contributions to that Fund with matching grants.

Ms. Barclay said that Symantec had donated funds, time and software to causes around the world in the area of education through such proven organizations as Room to Read, to which it was announcing a $1 million grant for literacy facilities and related initiatives in India.

Asked how donors could determine the greatest impact for their funding, Mr. Hikmet said that his company, with its global reach, was able to listen to the voice of the people directly.  Ms. Ryan said constant contact and involvement in projects was crucial.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.