‘The world has come a long way towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, but we must speed up our efforts in all areas before the 2015 deadline,’ said Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Together with the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, she is today co-chairing the first meeting of the UN Secretary-General’s MDG Advocacy Group to be held in Africa.
‘It’s not enough to sit in New York and Davos and discuss the fight against poverty and development in Africa. That is why President Kagame and I are bringing together representatives of the MDG Advocacy Group and UN leaders in Rwanda’s capital Kigali. Together we will mobilise an all-out effort for the 550 days remaining until the end of 2015, when the eight MDGs on education, health, gender equality and sustainable development are to be reached,’ said Ms Solberg.
Ms Solberg is in Africa this week to learn more about MDG progress there and to consider how the MDG Advocacy Group and Norway can best continue their efforts to promote development. Earlier this week, she took part in an international conference on women’s and children’s health in Johannesburg, which was co-chaired by Graça Machel, who is also a member of the MDG Advocacy Group. Yesterday, education was on the agenda, involving visits to a primary school and a vocational training institution in Malawi.
The mandate of the MDG Advocacy Groups is to intensify efforts to reach the MDGs through a broad partnership of national authorities, the UN system, the World Bank, the private sector, civil society and philanthropic organisations. Norway already has a strong engagement in global health, and is now also giving priority to global education, as set out in a recent white paper. The world has made considerable progress towards achieving the MDG on universal primary education; 108 million children did not attend school in 1999, compared with 58 million today. However, there are also 70 million young people who do not attend school, so a good deal still remains to be done.
‘Education is fundamental for long-term development in any country. Efforts to ensure that all girls are able to complete their schooling and receive a good-quality education are the top priority, because the education of girls has positive ripple effects on other important areas. Half of the 58 million children of primary school age who currently do not attend school live in areas affected by crises or conflicts. We must find innovative ways of enabling children in Syria, Somalia and other conflict areas to receive a good quality education, while ensuring their safety,’ said Ms Solberg.
Ms Solberg is deeply concerned about the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria, and the fact that they still have not been released. Altogether 70 countries worldwide have witnessed attacks on pupils, teachers or school buildings over the last five years.
‘Sadly there are forces in some parts of the world that are seeking to prevent education for girls by the most appalling means, including bomb attacks, killings and kidnappings. I have made it clear that the MDG Advocacy Group must do its utmost to counter unacceptable attitudes and actions against education for girls, and to help to ensure that girls can attend school safely,’ said Ms Solberg.