Opening Remarks and Statement by H.E. Ambassador Koro Bessho, Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, on the occasion of the launch of the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning

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(Opening Remarks)

Your Excellency, Ambassador Rhonda King, President of ECOSOC,
Ms. Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the other co-chairs, I would like to welcome you and thank you for joining us today in advancing our common goal to make education a global priority at United Nations Headquarters.
Education is absolutely central to ensuring that no one is left behind, and is therefore the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The cost of inaction by far exceeds the cost of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and providing lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Because education gives people the knowledge and skills they need to access decent jobs, it can boost productivity and open doors to employment. We know, for example, that each additional year of schooling raises average annual GDP growth by 0.37%, and that 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty if all students in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills.
Furthermore, education improves health outcomes, promotes gender equality, and empowers women. It can help to ensure environmental sustainability by raising awareness about the causes of climate change, and by nurturing the values, attitudes and responsible behaviors needed to build green societies. And finally it can contribute significantly to peace and stability by fostering reconciliation, mutual understanding and social cohesion.
Yet despite all these recognized benefits, and the great progress already achieved toward the education related targets of the SDGs, there is a long road ahead if we are to release the full potential of education.
That is why today — on this august occasion of the first International Day of Education — we launch the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning.
The Group of Friends was initially recommended by the SDG–Education 2030 Steering Committee in Paris, the global multi-stakeholder coordination mechanism for education in the 2030 Agenda. During its last session in September 2018, the Committee stressed that the creation of the Group would strengthen synergies between the Committee and the UN’s decision making bodies, including the UNGA, the ECOSOC and its subsidiary organs, and other UN forums around key education policy recommendations.
Given the centrality of education to all our work at the UN, we are convinced that more coordinated advocacy on the importance of education and lifelong learning for all will sharpen our focus on this important driver for sustainable development.
We will strive to use the Group of Friends as a common platform for Member States and relevant stakeholders to advance effective solutions and best practices in this field.
The year 2019 presents a unique opportunity to highlight the key role of education at United Nations Headquarters with the High Level Political Forum’s review of SDG 4 (Education). Accordingly, the Group will facilitate advocacy on the universal relevance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the central role of education for achieving all of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Under this framework, we will facilitate exchanges of views and formulate common positions on education that can be promoted in various UN forums and events, including the Commission on Social Development (CSD) in February, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March, the ECOSOC Youth Forum in April and, of course, the 2019 HLPF with its special focus on SDG 4, to name just a few.
In this endeavor, we look forward to working with all of you towards an engaging and viable Group.
Now, without a further ado, I would like to give the floor to Ms. Stefania Giannini, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General of Education, who will moderate our discussion.


Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to speak again. 
As I said, I look forward to working closely with you in order to raise awareness on the key role that education plays toward sustainable development.
I would like to add just a few words in my national capacity.
Japan has placed great emphasis on human resource development through quality education, nurturing the capacities of our people to contribute to developing a sustainable society.
 Building on this experience, Japan has provided educational assistance in developing countries. I would like to share with you two such examples: the “School for All” project in Africa, and the ASEAN Engineering Education Development Network.
The “School for All” project was launched in Niger in 2004 with the aim to improve the quality and access of children’s education.  This was done through the active participation of parents and local communities, including through the creation of school action plans and monitoring systems.  The project has now spread to around 40,000 schools across Africa.
The ASEAN Engineering Education Development Network (SEED-Net) was launched in 2001. The network has expanded to 26 leading engineering universities in ASEAN countries in cooperation with 14 Japanese universities. The network supports capacity building through graduate programs that enable academic staff to obtain advanced degrees. So far, approximately 1,400 teaching staff have received scholarships and more than 200 collaborative research activities have been conducted through the project.
I would like to stress that Japan will continue to strengthen its efforts on education. I hope today’s meeting will serve as a valuable opportunity to exchange our views on education as a key driver of sustainable development.
I thank you.