UNESCO New York Director, Ms. Vibeke Jensen, Discusses the Importance of Education in the Post 2015 Development Agenda

April 30, 2014

An experienced education specialist, Ms. Vibeke Jensen joined UNESCO in 1989.  Having occupied important posts in numerous countries including Thailand, Pakistan and Vietnam to name just a few, Ms. Jensen has now assumed the dual positions of Director of UNESCO’s New York Office and Director of the Secretariat of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative. She agreed to sit down with GFDD to discuss the
importance of education for sustainable development and its role in the post-2015 development agenda.

On April 30, Natasha Despotovic, GFDD’s Executive Director, sat down with Vibeke Jensen to discuss her experience as an education specialist and the role of education generally within the post-2015 development agenda.

Thanking Ms. Jensen for agreeing to take part in GFDD fourth edition of the 2014 GFDD Global Roundtables, Ms. Despotovic began the discussion by inviting Ms. Jensen to provide some insight on the role of UNESCO within the United Nations. Ms. Jensen explained that UNESCO’s main objective was to “promote dialogue, communication and
collaboration in education, culture and science” with the understanding that such collaboration “could help create a more peaceful world”.

Commenting on the organization’s progress in the field of education, Ms. Jensen explained that UNESCO has achieved a lot since its first World Conference on Education for All was held in 1990 and led to the adoption of the World Declaration on Education for All, the first global call for action on education from the international community. Indeed, reaffirming the vision of this declaration 10 years later, the Doha Framework for Action enabled the international community to lay down, in 2000, the
groundwork for what was adopted as the Millennium Development Goal 2 on Education later that year.

Ms. Despotovic praised UNESCO for their work, but also highlighted that despite these efforts there remains a large amount of children out of school. Ms. Jensen confirmed that there are in fact currently 57 million children out of school and 230 million students having spent less than
4 years in school. Looking at these education problems, Ms. Jensen explained that UNESCO is fighting two battles, one of quantity (trying to reduce the numbers of children out of school) and another of quality (seeking to improve the quality of teaching to prevent students from dropping out).

Reminding Ms. Jensen about the nearing deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (which end in 2015), Ms. Despotovic asked if there were any plans to tackle education in the post-2015 development agenda. Ms. Jensen explained that the Open
Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals
has provided an active forum for discussion on education and that UNESCO’s strategy has been to place education at the center of everything, be it climate change or biodiversity protection.

Ms. Jensen explained that the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative helps to support the role of education, as an advocacy initiative intending to make sure
that children “go to school and stay in school”.  Turning to another initiative by UNESCO, Ms. Jensen also stressed that the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development formed part of the desire by the UN to incorporate the pillars of sustainable development into education and help children engage with their education material through a series of activity based exercises, aiming to take children out of the school room and learn more about the environment around them.

The discussion was concluded with questions from the audience asking Ms. Jensen about the role of education
in resolving conflict and reducing inequalities. Ms. Jensen stressed that education can indeed help individuals resolve problems through dialogue and collaboration by giving them the tools to resolve issues in a peaceful manner. She explained that in order to reduce all forms of inequality it is vital that we achieve a 100% inclusive education system.

About the GFDD Global Roundtables
The regular series, GFDD Global Roundtables is also a part of GFDD’s program to support the work of the United Nations and, as a non-governmental institution affiliated to it, contribute to the visibility and understanding of its work.