PM Gonsalves addresses UNESCO
Special Features
October 26, 2007

PM Gonsalves addresses UNESCO

Conference hall “number one” of the UNESCO Complex at Avenue Sufren in Paris was the venue for Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves’ speech to the 34th Session of the UNESCO General Conference on Tuesday.{{more}}

Dr Gonsalves, who was specially invited by Director General of UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, to address the 34th General Conference, identified the goals of enhancing education and tackling the problems of climate change as key to this country’s cooperation with UNESCO. He also called for the international community to reach out to Haiti.

The Prime Minister was one of two key-note speakers, the other being Paul Biya, the President of Cameroon.

“My government is committed to eliminating poverty, improving living standards, helping our young men and women find employment, fighting drug trafficking and abuse…. and we see quality education as central to this,” said Dr Gonsalves.

“Indeed, UNESCO’s focus on education for sustainable development, not subsistence equilibrium, mirrors my government’s mantra that education is for living and production.”

The Prime Minister told the General Conference that this country is currently embarked on an “education revolution” at every level. The revolution, he said, has resulted in the achievement in 2005 of universal access to secondary education, while the UNESCO-backed Adult Literacy Crusade and Adult Education Programme have greatly reduced the rate of functional illiteracy. In addition, he said, “Through UNESCO projects such as “YouthPATH” (Youth – Poverty Alleviation through Tourism and Heritage), “Small Islands Voice” and “Sandwatch”, we are encouraging young people to take responsibility for their environment and to benefit from their heritage and the stunning beauty of our islands.”

Dr Gonsalves further stated that he was pleased to note UNESCO’s active role in promoting a “multidisciplinary, holistic” approach to the urgent problem of climate change. The problem “is of especially grave concern to small island developing states in the Caribbean, like St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The adverse consequences are real and immediate,” including hurricanes and tropical storms, rising sea levels, damage to marine and terrestrial life, and socio-economic dislocations.

“It is within us as a global family to mitigate and reverse the most deleterious aspects of climate change,” urged the Prime Minister. “Small islands are microcosms for the challenges which we all face on Planet Earth. If we disappear, the rest of the world will not be far behind.”

Prime Minister Gonsalves also used the opportunity to call upon the international community, and “in particular France, which has an historical responsibility, to act boldly and urgently on Haiti in communion with the Haitian people to end the country’s unbroken agony”.