Kittitian Minister of Education (Ag) heads delegation in seeking UNESCO technical assistance at the 36th General Conference held in Paris

The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis, led by Attorney-General and acting Minister of Education, Hon. Patrice Nisbett, stressed the need for continuing UNESCO technical assistance and funding to accomplish the goals of climate change adaptation and targeted improvements to science, education and cultural heritage policy in the Caribbean region, and especially in the Federation at the 36th Session of UNESCO General Conference held in Paris in October. It proved to be a fortuitous opportunity for the St. Kitts-Nevis delegation, despite a heavy and challenging agenda set by the organisers.

The St. Kitts and Nevis presence at the Conference was augmented by Antonio Maynard, Secretary-General, St. Kitts and Nevis National Commission for UNESCO, and Paris-based Dr. David Doyle, Permanent Delegate of St. Kitts-Nevis to UNESCO.

Some 192 member States’ ministers attending the UNESCO General Conference, the Organization’s highest ruling body, were present to hear Minister Nisbett’s intervention at the session, where he stressed the importance of investment in Education to address some of the social ills facing many Caribbean islands, especially amongst young men.

Attorney-General and acting Minister of Education (SKN), Hon. Patrice Nisbett

Reminding the Ministers and senior members UNESCO experts that small islands still faced serious obstacles in pursuing their social and economic ambitions, he stated . “This is not limited to balancing our finances; we equally face challenges associated with diminished levels of morality, humanism and dignity, which have declined to unprecedented and sometimes dangerous, levels amongst our young people. Consequently, we are tackling increasing crime and violence in society”.

He went on to underline that the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis fully supports UNESCO’s action to promote quality education for all. He added “the government continues to relentlessly explore alternative means for our youth by delivering alternative methods of education. As a result, my government has prioritized a policy focus in the field of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET”). He believed that UNESCO could significantly complement the government’s efforts by providing upstream policy advice and related capacity institutional development assistance.

Minister Nisbett referred to the ratification by the government of St. Kitts-Nevis of the UNESCO Convention against Doping in Sports, as another compelling vehicle that enables the country to integrate UNESCO’s input at pedagogical and developmental levels in sports, amongst young people. “The achievements of local, but world-known athletes, such as Kim Collins of St. Kitts Nevis and Usain Bolt of Jamaica are an inspiration to the youth in our islands, and an example of what small states can do to empower youths to pursue alternative and less socially-damaging activities”.

Accelerated policy development input to meet the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) was a recurring theme throughout the General Conference. The draft programme and budget being considered by the General Conference gave high priority to Gender Equality, Africa, Youth, Education for All (EFA), Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) and the most vulnerable segments of society.

Minister Nisbett praised the UNESCO experts for ensuring that SIDS remained a priority group within its new Programme and Budget Cycle, and urged further implementation of the Mauritius Strategy, and the Programme of Action for Sustainable Development , “especially taking in to consideration the ever-present danger of climate change”.

The General Conference was also a unique opportunity for St. Kitts-Nevis to launch a Draft Resolution, largely supported by the Caribbean states present, to address what he refereed to as “our key challenge … in finding ways to adapt and mitigate climate change, so destructive for crops, habitation and lives in our small islands”.

He stated that “Living conditions and tourism rely on our natural beauty and ecological systems represent our most precious assets”. Arising from the UNESCO ministerial level climate change conference hosted by St. Kitts-Nevis last March, Minister Nisbett lost no time in calling for UNESCO to deploy its expertise and resources in acting upon the three key priorities identified by Caribbean Ministers last March, to:

  • improve our preparedness ahead of imminent natural disasters through early-warning systems,
  • identify and strengthen scientific communities across the Caribbean region and
  • support our efforts in promoting education for sustainable development at all levels, including informal education.

In conclusion, Minister Nisbett said that he was confident that such important and highly relevant UNESCO activities could be implemented on the ground in St. Kitts-Nevis, and across the Caribbean region using UNESCO’s unique expertise and competencies emphasizing that this could not be done in isolation but, “In partnership with UNESCO and the Caribbean States, we can achieve substantial improvements for citizens carving out a living in the Caribbean”.

UNESCO’s General Conference, also saw the ratification of two new associate members to the Organisation – Curaçao and Sint Maarten – and the election of the President of its 36th session, Ambassador Katalina Bogyay of Hungary. One of the most far reaching decisions taken at the General Conference was the admission of Palestine to UNESCO as a full member. In this vote, some 107 countries voted yes, 52 abstained and 14 voted no.

Several Heads of State took part in the General Conference, including; His Excellency, President Johnson Toribiong of the Republic of Palau, Georgi Parvanov, President of the Republic of Bulgaria; Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Indonesia; Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire; Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of the Republic of Gabon; Pascal Irenée Koupaki of Benin; Hon. Tillman Thomas – Prime Minister of Grenada; and Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of Kenya.

Several of these statesmen participated in the Leaders’ Forum (26 and 27 October), on the theme “How does UNESCO contribute to building a culture of peace and to sustainable development?

The General Conference consists of the representatives of the States Members of the Organization. It meets every two years, and is attended by Member States and Associate Members, together with observers for non-Member States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Each Member State has one vote, irrespective of its size or the extent of its contribution to the budget.
The General Conference determines the policies and the main lines of work of the Organization. Its duty is to set the programmes and the budget of UNESCO. It also elects the Members of the Executive Board and appoints, every four years, the Director-General. St. Kitts-Nevis sat on the Executive Board between 2006 and 2009.

On the fringes of the General Conference, Minister Nisbett led a CARICOM delegation to meet the UNESCO Director-General, Irena Bokova and her senior experts and covered issues ranging from UNESCO’s response in provision of expertise to tackle climate change and policy measures relating to education, especially amongst disenchanted young men who leave school prematurely.

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