Source: The Deparetment of Basic Education
Title: SA: Motshekga: Address by the Minister of Basic Education, at the 36th session of the Unesco general conference, Paris
Madam President, Katalin Bogyay
The Chairperson, Eleonora Mitrofanova
Director-General, Irina Bokova
Honourable colleagues and delegates
Madam President, as we gather here in Paris, it is fitting that we consider ways of strengthening United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)’s ability to respond to the pressing educational, scientific and cultural challenges that face the African continent. In order for UNESCO to do this effectively it needs to play a decisive leadership role on key issues of international concern and for the organisation to be steered in a manner that will make it more effective in its actions.
Regarding climate change, preparations are underway in South Africa to welcome the international community and all stakeholders to the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at the end of November 2011. The success of the conference does not depend on South Africa alone but on the willingness of all Parties to reach an agreement.
On the request by Palestine for admission to UNESCO, South Africa welcomes and fully supports Palestine’s efforts to seek UNESCO membership. Such membership is long overdue. We also applaud the Executive Board for recommending to the General Conference that Palestine be admitted as a full member of UNESCO. The African Union has expressed its support, and the Non-Aligned Movement reaffirmed Palestine’s right to become a full member of the Multilateral Community of States.
On proposals by Member States concerning the celebration of anniversaries in 2012-2013 with which UNESCO could be associated, my delegation has proposed the celebration of the 50th Anniversaries of the Rivonia Trial, which led to the incarceration of former President Nelson Mandela, as well as the establishment of the Pan African Women’s Organisation (PAWO). We look towards the 36th Session of the General Conference to approve the recommendation for UNESCO to associate itself with these events.
On the draft programme and budget, we commend the Director-General on her efforts to reallocate existing funds towards the substantive work of the Organisation. This is, however, not a solution that will suffice on its own, as the growing demand for UNESCO’s expertise is not compatible with continued demands for zero growth budgets.
We as Member States continue to make demands of UNESCO and yet refuse to provide adequate resources to implement our demands. This is having a negative impact on the relevance and effectiveness of the Organisation.
On the issue of extra-budgetary contributions we caution against the negative practice of replacing regular budget funding with extra-budgetary resources. While we appreciate the valuable contribution that extra-budgetary funds make to the work of the Organisation, this practice undermines multilateralism, which is based on Member States’ ownership of common issues and the means to address them.
The continuing tendency to substitute core funding with extra-budgetary resources and its associated conditions, diminishes the relevance of multilateral organisations and their ability to address issues of common concern.
With regard to the independent external evaluation that was conducted of UNESCO, we continue to support the implementation of its recommendations that are aimed at making UNESCO more focused, better coordinated and more responsive to the needs of developing Member States.
Education For All has been a flagship UNESCO programme. Access, equity and quality are closely interlinked goals. We welcome the initiative by the UNESCO office to look more closely at benchmarking education quality. South Africa is proud to have hosted the UNESCO, Education Quality Framework meeting from 15-17 August 2011.
We are looking forward to the next event scheduled to take place in the United Arab Emirates later this year. There are only four more years to 2015, the deadline to achieve the EFA goals. We need to ensure that there are mechanisms and processes in place that will address unachieved targets related to access, equity and quality in basic education beyond 2015.
UNESCO’s commitment to prioritising science for development and gender equality in Africa in its biennial plans will contribute to the development of the continent and empowerment of women in science. Cooperation with UNESCO can strengthen Science, Technology and Innovation systems on the continent.
South Africa’s bid for the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) is in its advanced stages. In this regard we require the support of UNESCO in advancing the science and technology agenda in the African region and the world at large.
Madam President, the endorsement of the International Engineering Programme by the 185th session of the Executive Board was a huge step forward for developing Member States due to the fact that engineering capabilities are central for social, economic and human development. It is therefore with some disappointment that my delegation has learned about the downgrading of this programme to an initiative by the Executive Board. We trust that once the Organisation’s financial situation improves the initiative will revert back to an international programme.
The recognition of cultural diversity is critical to UNESCO, as to South Africa. The precious treasure of Africa’s cultural heritage can be enhanced through support for the Africa World Heritage Fund.
On meeting Africa’s water needs, the South African Government has approved hosting a UNESCO Category 2 Centre, the “African Centre for Global Change and Water Research.” It will serve the needs of the entire Continent with regard to climate change and water research and will be hosted at the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN). Evaluation of South Africa to host the Centre is yet due from UNESCO.
UNESCO has committed itself to strengthening the capacity for universal access to knowledge to bridge the digital divide. Through UNESCO’s commitment and collaboration with the South African e-Skills Institute, a national catalyst and responsive change agent for addressing the e-skills deficit in the country, we would drastically strengthen the national e-skills capacity of South Africa.
We firmly believe that a focused, results-based and development-oriented UNESCO can make a positive and practical contribution to Africa achieving the Education for All goals for the good of all children in Africa.
I thank you.