SPEECH BY THE FORUM SECRETARIAT DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL, MR FELETI TEO AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE 9TH FORUM EDUCATIION MINISTERS’ MEETING, PORT VILA, VANUATU ON 13 MAY 2012
The Hon Prime Minister of Vanuatu; Hon Sato Kilman Livtunvanu
Our Host the Minister of Education for Vanuatu; Hon Marcellino Pipite
Cabinet Ministers of the Vanuatu Government and other local dignitaries
Education Ministers of Forum Island Countries
Members of the Diplomatic Corp
Senior Government Officials
Delegates and observers to the meeting
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Prime Minister Sir, allow me on behalf of the Education Ministers of the Pacific Islands Forum and their Senior Officials and all the delegates and observers to the Forum Education Ministers’ meeting; convey to you and register with you, our collective sincere and heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to your Excellency for gracing us with your presence at this opening ceremony.
2. We are indeed humbled and touched by your very presence. Your very presence is testimony to your Government’s strong and unwavering commitment and the importance you subscribe to the delivery of quality education services to your people.
3. I thank the organizers of the meeting for the opportunity and privilege accorded to the Forum Secretariat to make a statement at this opening ceremony for the 9th meeting of Forum Education Ministers.
4. I am, of course, standing in for the Forum Secretary General, HE Tuiloma Neroni Slade, who unfortunately cannot be here because of his other commitments at another ministerial meeting. But he asked me, and I do so, convey to you Ministers his sincere regrets and apologies for not making it to your meeting and he extends his best wishes for a successful meeting.
5. Thank you also to the organizers of the meeting for treating us to such an elaborate and very entertaining and moving ceremony to mark the opening of the 9th Forum Education Ministers meeting. Particular thanks to the school children for their performances.
6. Prime Minister, since the time of our arrival here in Port Vila, we have been received and welcomed very warmly by your people. And I take this opportunity, on behalf of all of us attending this Ministerial meeting, to covey to you and through you Prime Minister to the government and people of Vanuatu, our enormous gratitude and appreciation for the warmth and sincerity of your welcome and the generosity of your hospitality. On behalf of all of us, tangiu tumas.
7. The occasion of the Forum Education Ministers’ meeting is now a permanent feature of the schedule of Forum Ministerial meetings we convened, and does provide a regular opportunity for Education Ministers of the region to come together and share their experience; share their common concerns; share their respective difficulties and development challenges in the exercise of their responsibilities as Education Ministers.
8. On this occasion, we gathered here in Port Vila courtesy of the kind and generous invitation of your then Education Minister for Vanuatu, for Vanuatu to host this year’s Forum education ministers meeting. The 9th Forum Education Ministers’ meeting.
9. To provide some historical context, the Forum Education Ministers met for the first time in 2001. That was in response to a directive of the Forum Economic Ministers’ Meeting. The Economic Ministers, in calling for such a meeting of Education Ministers, acknowledged the significant contribution that quality education development and a highly educated population can contribute to a stronger and sustainable economic development. That acknowledgement, of more than 10 years ago, I submit remains true of today and will do so well into the future.
10. Since then the Education Ministers have continued to meet on a regular basis, and in doing so have developed a formidable body of work that has guided and served the region well in the common pursuit of the delivery of quality education services and equipping population with the necessary tools of knowledge and skills to allow them to contribute effectively to their communities.
11. The provision of education services, of course, remains and must always remain the primary responsibility and prerogative of national governments and administrations.
12. But the unique geographical characteristics and attributes of our region; in the diverse sizes of economies and population; and the common severe resource constraints and the vulnerabilities of economies in the region makes a strong case for countries and economies around the region to address their development challenges in a collective and coordinated fashion.
13. It is that very pursuit of collective responses (or regional responses) to common development challenges that underpin the Pacific Plan. The Pacific Plan, now generally accepted as the master development strategy for the region, and one that guides collective regional responses to support the development efforts of countries at the national level.
14. As a result of the work of Forum Education Ministers, the region now has a regional development strategy for the education sector in the form of the Pacific Education Development Framework, a framework that was adopted by Education Ministers at their meeting in Tonga in 2009.
15. The Framework’s underpinning philosophy is to nurture, develop and prepare all children in the region so that they are able to live life to the full; to be able to participate effectively in national developments; and to be able to maintain their traditional and cultural identities and to sustain them in the face of globalization.
16. Prime Minister, I wish to highlight here the strong notion of sustainability, a notion or principle that runs through the regional Education Development Framework. And in that respect, I wish to congratulate your Minister of Education for agreeing to the theme of “sustainable quality education – 2012 and beyond” for the education ministers meeting. A short but very powerful theme.
17. The theme for the meeting brings to the fore the strong notion (and aspiration) for sustainable development in the education sector. Though countries may aspire for and achieve the delivery of quality education services to their population, the greatest challenge is sustaining the standard and quality of those services.
18. The timeline envisaged in the theme is of also of major significance. 2012 will mark the end of the current priorities for the Pacific Plan which includes education as one of the key regional priorities.
19. So Ministers of Education will, in the course of their deliberations over the next two days will review the scope and consider refinements to the education priority of the Pacific Plan for the next three years, up to 2015.
20. The year 2015 is also of significance. Significant because it is the end-year for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), of which education is one of those MDGs, possibly the most important.
21. 2015 is also the end-year for the current timeline for the Pacific Plan
22. So the work that Education Ministers will undertake here in Port Vila, will be of fundamental importance as it would contribute to the body of work that may determine how the education priorities and developments goals will be best presented and articulated in the regional development and global development frameworks expected to assume prominence after 2015.
23 Forum Education Ministers in their meeting will receive an update report on the implementation of the Pacific Education Development Framework. I am pleased to observe here that the update report will be a positive report. Positive in the sense that it identifies through a baseline study, as required, the key challenges and constraints of each of the member country in their education sector. But maybe not so positive, in the sense that there will be more challenges for the Ministers to address, and that what lies ahead for them in the next two days.
24. Prime Minister, the regional development frameworks Education Ministers have constructed to guide their work, obviously need to be pursued and implemented. Substantial resources of course will be required. And therefore the issue of resources constraint presents itself. And it is here where we seek to fully utilise all available development resources, whether they exist internally through national resources or externally through development assistance from development partners and donors.
25. The key is coordination. There must be effective coordination of the development resources of national governments and those provided by development partners to minimize the risk of duplication of efforts and wastage of resources. This must be at the forefront of the implementation of the education development framework.
26. I am pleased to observe, Prime Minister, that the work the Forum Secretariat has undertaken under the auspices of the Forum Compact on Strengthening Development Coordination have provided useful support to member countries in enhancing the coordination of their development resources. Work continues in this area, and we expect to further narrow the focus of the work of the Forum Compact on sectoral areas like the Education sector.
27. At regional gatherings of this kind, we must always not lose sight of the reality. Whatever regional framework or regional initiative in the education sector, the test of their successes can only be gauged if those regional initiatives can be translated into practical and tangible benefits at the national level. And that is the challenge ahead for the Education Ministers in their deliberations over the next two days.
28. In the education sector, children must be the ultimate and primary beneficiary of regional and national efforts to deliver quality education services. For they are the leaders of tomorrow; and investing in education is investing in the quality of the leadership of tomorrow.
29. And it is through sustainable quality education, that the region will fulfill the vision of Pacific Leaders under the Pacific Plan for a region of peace, harmony, security and economic prosperity, so that all of its people can lead free and worthwhile lives.
30. I thank you