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Statement by Kishore Singh, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education at the United Nations Secretary-Generals’ Global Initiative on Education

New York 26 September 2012

Mr Secretary-General,
Madam Director-General of UNESCO,
Distinguished Participants,

Today is a historic day when the central role of education in accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is once again reaffirmed. I would like to whole-heartedly welcome the UN Secretary-General’s Global Initiative on Education – Education First.

This Initiative promises to elevate education on the international development agenda. It is also very opportune, given its new emphasis on the promotion of quality and relevance of education. My report to be presented to the 67th UN General Assembly will also address the theme of technical and vocational education in this perspective, focusing on the knowledge, skills and competencies imparted through this form of education.

The focus on relevant and high-quality education without discrimination or exclusion must be applauded. Ensuring equal opportunities to education both in law and in fact is a permanent challenge being faced today by almost all countries, as I stated in my first thematic report to the Human Rights Council in 2011. This requires paying special attention to all those who are marginalized, and remain deprived of educational opportunities. Quality and equality go together. So does quality and access.

While universalizing access to education for all, governments must take full care to ensure that minimum standards in education are maintained - compromising on quality will only prolong the ongoing learning crisis.

In this respect, allow me to refer to my last report to the Human Rights Council, in which I underlined the need to intensify national level normative action for quality education.

Education’s empowering role is indispensable for the success of poverty reduction strategies, and the achievement of global development commitments. Investment in education must be a permanent priority. The principles of social justice and equity should guide State actions in the field of education. It is therefore commendable that the Secretary-General’s Global Initiative on Education underlines the need to ‘create a generation that values the common good’.

I also welcome the creation of the Initiative’s High-Level Steering Committee, with UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova as its Executive Secretary. As the Secretary-General has stated, the Director-General of UNESCO is the “lead person” - UNESCO has indeed a principal role and responsibility in the field of education in the United Nations system. Its institutional mission of universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and ensuring full and equal educational opportunity for education for all is very pertinent in the context of this Initiative.

The Secretary-General’s Global Initiative on Education promotes a new vision, placing education at the heart of all efforts for nation-building. The Initiative strives to foster and promote value-based education and global citizenship. In a globalizing world, all men and women must become fully conscious of the need and importance of learning to live together, of upholding human rights and human dignity everywhere.

I take this opportunity to call on the entire international community to join forces in the promotion of this Initiative, and suggest that regional bodies and States should promote similar efforts at regional and national levels, thereby according the highest priority to the full realization of the right to education.

Thank you.