Statement by the Honourable Andrew Holness Minister of Education of Jamaica to the 34th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO


Having only recently assumed office as Minister of Education, I am pleased to address this 34th General Conference of UNESCO.
Jamaica will mark the 45th anniversary of its membership of UNESCO shortly. That commemorative event will provide an opportunity not only to reflect on the achievements over the years but also to reiterate our intent to effectively play our role as a Member State of UNESCO.
In addition, Jamaica pledges its continued support for the reforms being pursued by the Director-General to add greater value to the outcomes of the work of the Organization.
Caribbean Cluster OfficeJamaica has warmly received Dr. Kwame Boafo, the new resident Director for the Caribbean Cluster office. My team looks forward to increased collaboration with that office, as we undertake the implementation of the Programme and Budget for the 2008/09 period. In addition, we remain committed to the early establishment of a UN Headquarters House and to the accommodation of the UNESCO Caribbean Office in that facility.
UNESCO Policy Objectives
You are aware, Mr. President, that Jamaica is seeking to resume its membership of the Executive Board, in addition to serving on three other subsidiary bodies. Within the framework of those entities we shall seek to ensure the effective implementation of the proposed 5-year Medium Term Strategy.
I wish to underscore however, Mr. President, that if the Caribbean region is to achieve its respective national and regional mandates, it is essential that funding for the Fellowship and Participation Programmes be maintained at current levels.
SECTORAL DEVELOPMENTSI am pleased, Mr. President, that the activities that Jamaica has undertaken since the last General Conference have demonstrated our full support for UNESCO’s values and ideals.
Education
We have ratified the Convention against Discrimination in Education and the Government is currently reviewing the Education system. That process will focus on several of the priority issues comprising the UNESCO Draft Programme and Budget. These include:- an increased focus on early childhood education;- ensuring quality, universal access and equity in education;- combating violence in schools;- improving the management and administration of the educational system through decentralization and a results-based approach to policy implementation; and – of course, gender issues, particularly the problem of male under-achievement. This phenomenon has become a growing challenge in societies throughout the region and CARICOM countries have agreed that this is an issue in which we would specifically welcome UNESCO’s expertise. I am confident, Mr. President, that once we have clearly identified the appropriate path towards education for sustainable development, UNESCO will have a significant role to play in assisting us in the achievement of these objectives.
ScienceJamaica was pleased to have been selected as one of six Pilot countries to establish National Bioethics Committees. The national Committee will work actively with the Bioethics Society of the English speaking Caribbean, which was recently established to ensure that bioethics is given increased attention in the sub-region. It is with this in mind, Mr. President, that we submitted or candidature to the Intergovernmental Committee on Bioethics.Further efforts are being taken to implement programmes on renewable energy, climate change and science education in schools.
Man and the BiosphereMr. President, Jamaica attaches great significance to the biosphere and therefore regrets that in spite of the natural beauty of the Caribbean, no site in the sub-region has hitherto been conferred with recognition in the World Biosphere Reserve. Steps are therefore being taken at the regional level towards the early nomination of an appropriate site for such recognition.
Culture
Our participation in the first Conference of Parties to the Convention on Cultural Diversity and Artistic Expressions held earlier this year, was of particular significance having been amongst the first group of countries to have ratified that Convention.
In the context of its rich and diverse cultural heritage, Jamaica is also seeking to have the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. In an effort to increase the number of World Heritage Sites in the region, CARICOM countrieshave agreed to take steps towards establishing a regional Heritage Fund.
Slave TradeMr. President, this year marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. I wish to commend UNESCO for its support of the various commemorative activities undertaken and in particular the UNESCO Slave Route Project which over the last thirteen years has sought to break the silence surrounding the slave trade and slavery.
We thank those Member States which have contributed to the Fund to erect a Permanent Memorial, at the UN Headquarters, in honour of the victims of slavery and the slave trade. We also look forward to the further tangible support of UNESCO towards the erection of this memorial.
Anti-Doping in Sport Mr. President, one of the issues with which we continue to grapple globally is the issue of doping in sport. As one of the leading nations in the field of athletics, Jamaica has accorded the highest priority to this issue. We were amongst the first countries to ratify the International Convention against Doping in Sport.
In order to ensure that our obligations under the Convention are fully met we have hitherto established an Inter-Ministerial Task Force against Doping in Sport and draft Legislation is now in place for the establishment of a national Anti-Doping Commission.
In a further effort towards preserving the integrity of sport through combating doping, Jamaica is undertaking a continuous outreach and education programme, particularly among youth, having regard to the health consequences of doping and the responsibility of all sports persons and associated personnel to demonstrate the highest level of integrity and fair play in sport.
In closing, Mr. President, I wish to reiterate Jamaica’s unstinting commitment to partner with UNESCO and Member States in promoting sustained social and economic development through all meaningful educational, scientific and cultural initiatives.

JIS Social