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St. Kitts and Nevis opens the 42nd UNESCO General Conference in Paris as the first speaker

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Paris, France, 10th November 2023: The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis enjoyed the rare privilege of opening the debates at the biennial UNESCO General Conference, held in Paris this week.   St. Kitts and Nevis made an impactful plea to UN Member States to put education at the heart of their government’s plans to transform their economies and promote peace in an increasingly unstable international context.

As the first senior minister to deliver the country’s national statement, the Hon. Geoffrey Hanley, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education took the floor to address more than 160 other ministers to reaffirm the importance of education in forging the future of St. Kitts and Nevis.  He asserted that the quest for quality education, at all levels of society, transcends the country’s economic, social and financial strategy to transform itself into a sustainable island state: “Our aim is to transform our small island state economy, relying on a dedicated qualified, skilled and knowledgeable workforce”.

Minister Hanley paid tribute to UNESCO for supporting the St. Kitts and Nevis Government in modernizing and scaling up its education policy framework, and beyond, with leading-edge expertise.  This covers policies in professionalizing the teaching force, strengthening the national qualifications accreditation system, introducing education for sustainable development into the national curriculum, boosting anti-doping in sport credentials and identifying eligible heritage sites for nomination to the World Heritage List.

Deputy Prime Minister, Geoffrey Hanley in applauding UNESCO’s expertise over the many years stated, “We also strive to attain certain, very specific, Sustainable Development Goals, relating to quality education, urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, clean water and sanitation, and conserving life on land, especially, stemming biodiversity loss.  

Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Geoffrey Hanley

He commended the robustness of UNESCO’s Small Island Developing States Rolling Operational Strategy for 2022-2029 and that SIDS had been elevated to priority group status allocated by UNESCO.  But he urged a more targeted approach to the detailed programmatic orientations of UNESCO’s engagement with this vulnerable constituency in the following areas: stated that “The focus needs a rigorous focus on the vulnerabilities facing SIDS in climate change adaptation, quality education and water challenges.

The minister was accompanied at the General Conference by Ms Dorothy Warner, Secretary General, St. Kitts-Nevis National Commission to UNESCO, and Dr. David P. Doyle, Ambassador-Permanent Delegate of St. Kitts-Nevis to UNESCO.

Minister Hanley seized the occasion of his attendance at the UNESCO General Conference to meet senior officials within the UNESCO Secretariat to discuss tangible progress on 8 separate UNESCO-driven and funded projects, notably with Assistant Directors-General Stefania Giannini (Education), Lidia ArthurBrito, (Natural Sciences), Ernesto Ottone R (Culture), and Gabriela Ramos (Social and Human Sciences).

He was invited to deliver three additional speeches at side events during the UNESCO General Conference, in particular, at the 60th Anniversary Symposium – International Institute for Educational Planning, where he addressed the audience alongside another Minister of Education, Justin Davis Valenti, from The Seychelles.  Minister Hanley was also among the 50 education ministers who addressed a session dedicated session to Education for Peace.

The final speaking engagement involved Minister Hanley as the only Minister to speak at the Earth Network Initiative ceremony, held to showcase St. Kitts and Nevis’ as a best-practice case in implementing this initiative at the St. Mary’s Biosphere Reserve.  Backed by funding from the Italian Government, the initiative constituted, according to Minister Hanley, a game-changing capacity-building project which was guided by a leading ecologist and biodiversity expert.

Minister Hanley noted that: “The overall aim is to embrace better use of tropical forests, enhance the cultivation of new fruits, combat soil erosion and explore introducing seed varieties more tolerant to heat and drought”.

In summing up his week-long attendance at the UNESCO General Conference, Deputy Prime Minister Hanley stated: “I was most encouraged and impressed with the breadth and scope of UNESCO’s invaluable work in St. Kitts and Nevis.  The Organisation’s interventions and expertise cover some relevant areas in contributing to the Government’s Sustainable Island State Agenda.”

The minister was accompanied at the General Conference by Ms Dorothy Warner, Secretary General, St. Kitts-Nevis National Commission to UNESCO, and Dr. David P. Doyle, Ambassador-Permanent Delegate of St. Kitts-Nevis to UNESCO.

Ambassador Doyle noted, “The week provided commendable opportunities for St. Kitts and Nevis, and the Deputy Prime Minister, to highlight the Federation’s substantial achievements in cooperation with UNESCO.  Despite our limited resources in St. Kitts and Nevis, the various interactions with Ministers and UNESCO experts have demonstrated that the invaluable expertise deployed has contributed to our pursuing the Sustainable Development Goals

National Commission Secretary-General, Dorothy Warner, was equally pleased with the outcomes, noting that:” We have evolved from strength to strength in the past few years in identifying relevant expertise from UNESCO and rigorously applying leading-edge tools and processes to develop new policies”.

The UNESCO General Conference consists of representation at ministerial level from the Member States. It meets every two (2) years and is attended by Member States and Associate Members, together with observers for non-Member States, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations.   The 42nd session represented the 6th occasion, since 2007, for St. Kitts and Nevis to participate at ministerial level at the UNESCO General Conference.

During the course of the last year, St. Kitts and Nevis has negotiated some eight substantive capacity-building projects with UNESCO, for direct implementation across the Federation.  The projects amounting to nearly $300,000 cover some of the key flagship areas of UNESCO’s technical mandate: cultural heritage, education, water policy and biodiversity. 

L-R: H.E. Ambassador Dr. David Doyle; Dorothy Warner, SKN National Commission, Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General/Education and Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Geoffrey Hanley

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