This is a great day for education. The Secretary-General just launched the Education First initiative.
I am now pleased to open this panel discussion. We are grateful to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown for playing a key role in this initiative of education and to Ms. Bokova of UNESCO for her strong leadership in this area.
We are very privileged to welcome our four distinguished panelists: Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Ms. Teopista Birungi Mayanja and Mr. Charles Young.
Your Majesty, you are one of the world’s leading advocates for education.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, your support sends a strong signal on the importance of education to peace and democracy.
And we thank you -- Ms. Mayanja and Mr. Young – for your presence and bringing in the voices of teachers and students.
Earlier today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke with passion about the critical role education played in his life in the aftermath of the Korean war.
I also think back to my own life story. When I was growing up, Sweden was one of Europe’s poorest countries at the time. My mother had a fourth-grade education. My father never finished high school.
But my parents believed in the power of education and I became the first in my family to earn a college degree, which made possible by political change at the time. Education was a key factor in Sweden’s turning into one of the most prosperous countries.
I know that everyone of us in this room can testify to the transformative power of education.
Around the world, I have seen parents making huge sacrifices to send their children to school, even when they live under hard living conditions.
They see education as the way to escape poverty and to offer a better life to their children. Young people know that education is a gateway to better jobs and realizing their dreams. This is why today’s huge youth unemployment problems are so serious. Let us not disappoint our youth.
We promised that all children will have access to primary education by 2015 as part of the MDGs.
This promise was ambitious. But evidence shows that it was realistic.
We have made impressive gains during the past decade. Some countries that were lagging far behind are now on track to achieve their targets.
Unfortunately, this is only part of the story.
We are still falling short of honouring our collective pledge. Millions of young people are not acquiring the basic literacy skills they need, even when they are in school.
All of this requires urgent action and commitment not only to quantity but also to quality education.
We still have three years to three months and four days to go to achieve the international goals for education.
We must also ensure that education for all is a strong element of the post-2015 global development agenda.
This is why Education First is launched today. He wants to put education high on the agenda of global national and local leaders. Your commitment and support can make the difference.
Thank you and I apologize for having to leave for another event, the Eleventh Annual Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Member States of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries.
I wish you a productive and stimulating panel discussion.