ECOSOC High Level Segment on Education

Miquel Barceló

The Economic and Social Council, which serves as the central UN forum for economic and social issues, held its Substantive Session in Geneva, from 4 to 29 July, 2011. This year’s meeting was dedicated to education and gathered many experts, politicians, government ministers and UN officials.

Representatives of Dianova and those of many other NGOs were present as observers from July 4 to 8 at the “High Level Segment“, the objective of which was to highlight opportunities for advancing progress on the education related Millennium Development Goals and the broader Education for All goals. During his keynote address, ECOSOC President, Mr. Lazarous Kapambwe, mentioned the various regional meetings  which served as a preparation to this year’s review on education, before stressing the challenging issues to embrace to make education a reality for all.

“Is such a consensus beyond our reach? I don’t think so. Is it too big a task? Certainly not bigger than the power of the collective force of the political will of our governments, the private sector and our civil society. It can be done, it must be done. I invite you to join hands and make a difference in the lives of millions.”

During the special policy dialogue on “Accelerating education for all (EFA): mobilizing resources and partnerships”, Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UNESCO, noted that according to the United Nations Global Report on Human Development 2010, the countries which had successfully advance human development were those who had chosen to invest heavily in education and health systems. Ms Bokova highlighted the progress that could be achieved, but also the work that remains to be done, for example for the 10 million children who drop out of primary school in Sub-Saharan Africa each year.

“Literacy is a development multiplier. The foundations for literacy lie in quality schooling and quality ‘second chance’ programs. Quality is the next gap we need to cross. Far too many learners leave education with skills that are not relevant. We must understand the causes of poor learning outcomes and how to improve the relevance of all learning.”

During another special policy dialogue dedicated to “Education for sustainable development“, Mr. Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute (Columbia University), stressed the critical importance of information and communication technologies to promote quality education in less developed countries. As an example, Mr. Sachs was envisioning to implement networks in remote sub-Saharan village schools to develop distance education from Europe or the United States.

In addition, Mr. Sachs (by video conference) highlighted the limited space granted to the teaching of sustainable development by traditional education systems. He mentioned the example of his home country, the United States, where a vast majority of people are still questioning climate change, precisely because of such shortcomings in the education system (and because of the lobbying of some corporate interests). He also explained the concept of “Triple Bottom Line“, which captures an expanded spectrum of values and criteria for measuring organizational and societal success: economic, ecological and social.

During that same policy dialogue, Dr. Ashok Khosla – Chairman of India-based consortium of social enterprises, Development Alternatives, dedicated to create sustainable livelihoods in large numbers – stressed that education should support environment protection and awareness, by teaching  the interdependence of social, environmental and economic issues. He also focused on the importance of a systemic knowledge capable of connecting the various disciplines, and on the teaching of ethics, social justice and value systems.

Dianova’s Stance on Education

In the Dianova model, education is a transversal practice that crosses through and impacts all intervention areas. Dianova considers that education is a right that must be guaranteed by the States and supported by civil society as a whole. This right to education is for the entire population and is relevant to children, adolescents and adults. The main objectives of education must be:

  • To foster human fulfillment, develop talents and mental and physical aptitudes with all their potential;
  • To instill respect for human rights and freedoms;
  • To instill respect for peoples’ identities, languages and cultural values, as well as respect for national values in the country of residence, in the originating country and civilizations and cultures different to their own;
  • To enable the assumption of responsibilities for life in a free society, with the spirit of peace, tolerance, gender equality and friendship between all people;
  • And to instill respect for the environment and ecosystems.

With regards to education, Dianova aims to activate relational and transformational learning spaces that contribute to the full autonomy and development of young people.
Dianova undertakes lobby and advocacy actions so that all people can have universal access to the education system, according to their needs and choices, and thus intervenes with international bodies and the States.

The Dianova Network Manifesto