New York

11 June 2013

Secretary-General's message at High Level Event on Education organized by the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the UN [as prepared for delivery] [Delivered by Mr. Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General]

It is an honour for me to address so many distinguished leaders committed to ensuring that young people have the knowledge and skills they need to fulfill their ambitions.

Education is a top priority for creating opportunity, empowering young people -- especially girls -- and very importantly achieving the Millennium Development Goals. 

The Secretary-General sends his warm greetings to you and extends his thanks to the Government of Denmark and to UNESCO for organising this mobilising event.

He regrets he cannot be with you today, but has asked me to read a brief personal message on his behalf.

“Growing up in the Republic of Korea, I have seen first-hand how education can transform a society ravaged by war and poverty.  There can be no development breakthrough without quality education for all.  It empowers people and transforms lives.  It is the key to creating equitable, inclusive and prosperous societies.  It is the building block of sustainable development and lasting peace.

That is why I launched the Global Education First Initiative-- to give education the prominence it deserves on the global development agenda.

The battle for universal access is not yet won.  The Education for All movement, coordinated by UNESCO, has resulted in much progress.  But as we approach the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, we need to raise the level of international commitment.  We need not only to ensure that every child goes to school but that she or he receives a quality education and the skills relevant to becoming a global citizen and productive member of society. 

Today’s event can provide valuable insights on how to scale up our efforts to meet these challenges.  I look forward to your views on how governments can promote better quality education, and how the international community can set a bold vision for the post-2015 agenda.”

Let me add a few comments of my own underlining the Secretary-General’s emphasis on the crucial role of education both from the individual’s perspective and from society’s perspective. 

Education is also the key for living up to the dreams and aspirations for millions and millions of people around the world.  This is particularly important at a time when education and learning skills are crucial for young peoples’ chances to get a job.

Education is also the key to development and the advancement of societies.  In my experience, strong institutions, good infrastructure and quality education for all are necessary components of lifting nations from poverty to prosperity.  It is in fact what transformed my own country Sweden from one of the poorest in Europe 80-100 years ago into what it is today.  I personally benefitted from this change in society, being the first one in my family getting an education beyond primary school.

Let us also remember that education is a multiplier for several of the other MDG’s related to health, gender equality and poverty.

And finally, in a world in the midst of a communications revolution, education is a fundamental requirement for people to be able to fully form their lives and to influence the future.

A Finnish President once said “The source of wisdom is honouring the facts”.  We need new generations in the world who acquire knowledge, learn to analyze and think critically, and apply their skills to improve living-conditions in their societies and in the world.

All this I mention only to stress the importance and relevance of this meeting and of your presence here today, placing education in the center of our attention. 

Thank you.