Muchas gracias por su hospitalidad.
I’m very moved, touched, by what you are doing to make this country better for all through this very meaningful programme, “Quisqueya Sin Miseria.” I would like to sincerely thank and highly commend the far-sighted vision of President [Danilo] Medina [Sánchez] and his Government for this very meaningful campaign.
The United Nations is working very hard to provide education to many people around the world, particularly for women and girls and vulnerable groups of people, and marginalized people, particularly.
Through these Millennium Development Goals, which are a blueprint to make this world better for all, education plays a very important part. First comes poverty eradication, then the second goal is education, the third goal is gender empowerment. After that, there are five more goals, but I will not repeat [them].
That means “Quisqueya sin miseria” is the most important objective and goal. Then, how to achieve these goals? We need to educate people. We need to have educated human resources.
This project is very special to my heart because I myself was one of you and them. When I was a young boy, we were very poor and hungry, we were very hungry. But, at the same time, we were hungry for education. We were thirsty for education. That’s what I am seeing now here in the Dominican Republic.
You are a prosperous country, and you are a middle income county, but still there are many poor people. How to lift them out of poverty? Then you need good education, teaching people. There may be some other ways of industrialization, providing energy, water, et cetera, but education is the quickest way to make people live with dignity.
In that regard, investing, allocating, 4 per cent of GDP of this country to education is, again, far-sighted. That is why I highly commended President Medina’s vision during my speech to the Joint Session of the Congress. I hope you will increase this to 5 per cent, 6 per cent, more and more. The more, the better.
We have here the distinguished Minister of Presidency, Mr. [Gustavo] Montalvo. I hope he will convey this message to your President.
As Secretary-General, because I believe this is so special, so important, I launched an initiative called Global Education First. We have to take education as a first priority.
I have appointed about a dozen world leaders for champions of education. I would like to invite President Medina to join these champions of education. [...]
You have been able cut by half the number of people who are living in extreme poverty, and you have been training teachers, good teachers, more than 4,700 people, and you have been investing in food security.
I think these are very good policies, wise policies. I hope you will continue these policies.
I was very much moved by what our beneficiaries did, particularly with difficulty in eyesight. There is no reason one should be desperate or marginalized or isolated or discriminated [against] because of a physical disability. I am very much impressed by what this lady has read, what she wrote.
My own mother didn’t go to school. She speaks well, but she barely reads and barely writes. She is still living at 94 years old, but she raised five sons and daughters well. I am now Secretary-General of the United Nations because she invested in the education of her sons and daughters, which she was not able to receive in her time.
Almost a hundred years ago, women were just nothing. They were literally second-class citizens. When there was a choice between boys and girls, then girls were left aside.
That happened to my mother, but that should not be repeated these days. Still, it happens around the world. When girls are not educated properly, when girls are poor, they [face] dangers. They are exposed to bad ways because they are illiterate, because they are extremely poor.
This is what we have seen in the case of the Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai. She was almost [killed] by the Taliban. After she was saved, what she said was – this is very moving – that “girls with textbooks are more powerful than terrorists and Taliban.” What Taliban and terrorists are most fearful is that when girls can read, girls are educated. That’s why we launched a campaign, girls with textbooks.
This is what you are doing now. This is the right choice, the best investment.
This is why we are now providing education even to refugees in refugee camps.
A few months ago, I visited Syrian refugee camps. There are many young boys and girls who cannot go to school at this time. The first thing we did after providing food, we established, we built makeshift schools, classrooms. Even though these classrooms are overcrowded, they have textbooks, notebooks, pencils and teachers. We found teachers among refugees. This was a moving, moving experience, and the right thing for us to do.
So I fully support for your campaign, “Quisqueya sin Miseria.” And through teaching and educating the people of your country, you can count on the United Nations, and the UN Country Team in the Dominican Republic will always work with you. I am asking Señor [Lorenzo] Jimenez [de Luis], our Resident Coordinator of the UN Country Team, to work very closely with this campaign.