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OAS Secretary General Calls for Improving the Quality of Education in the Americas

  April 19, 2013

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today called for a "new effort" to improve the quality of education in the Americas, during the 51st Lecture of the Americas organized by the hemispheric institution, entitled "Promoting Human Development and Quality Education in the Americas," in which the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova took part.

In his opening remarks at the event, the Secretary General Insulza said, regarding the issues of education and human development, "we have worked intensely on them, but we must be able to evaluate our results and prepare for the next push, the next effort to substantially improve the quality of education at all levels" in the region.

The leader of the hemispheric organization recalled that "this issue is set forth in our Inter-American Democratic Charter in precise terms," citing the document, which says "poverty, illiteracy, and low levels of human development are factors that adversely affect the consolidation of democracy.” More recently, added the Secretary General, the Member States of the OAS adopted the Social Charter of the Americas, which states that it is a fundamental social right and that all citizens have the right to “equal and universal access to quality primary and secondary education,” which is built through the principles of pluralism, freedom, equality, relevance, quality and justice, among others."

Secretary General Insulza recalled that the OAS has a long history of working together with UNESCO on various issues, "including the Educational Portal of the Americas, the scientific developments in our programs of Water Resources; the use of mobile technologies, and issues related to the Haitian diaspora, among others." He acknowledged that major challenges remain to quality education in the region, but said that "this is a priority for our organization."

For her part, the Director-General of UNESCO stressed that “education today remains our foremost priority. It is the center of our fight for human rights, human dignity and human security. Education drives development and prosperity. So rights, security and prosperity, these are the overarching goals of the Organization of American States, and also they are in UNESCO´s DNA, as we say.”

“The world is changing,” said the senior UN official, “and education must adapt and provide all women and men with the tools and skills they need to make the most of the opportunities of change. The 21st century will be built on knowledge societies, that are inclusive and that harness the full power of science technology and innovation. Not investing in education jeopardizes the future of people and of nations,” she said.

"Education means collaboration," said Director Bokova, "between teachers, students and communities; between governments and civil society and private partners." "Our two organizations are, with their commitment to peace, human rights and inclusive development, ideally suited to promote this goal," he said.

The event's closing remarks were made by the Permanent Representative of Dominica to the OAS, Hubert Charles, who emphasized the need to adapt to local circumstances in promoting innovations in education. "We need to seek out innovations, not always seek to promote innovations," said Ambassador Charles. The strategies in this area are always evolving, said the diplomat from Dominica, "and each generation has to return to education to pursue new strategies, new techniques and new approaches."

"We hope that the innovative traditions that we have in Latin America can be further expanded to address the many challenges that we see emerging almost daily," said Ambassador Charles, who added that "without proper management of the challenges, the rich potential of the Americas will not be realized."

Before moderating a question and answer session, the Executive Secretary for Integral Development of the OAS, Sherry Tross said that "education can be a force for constructive change in our societies. It is transformative, if you’re looking at economic development, if you’re looking at poverty reduction, if you’re looking at social inclusion; education is at the base of all of this," she said.

Before the event, Secretary General Insulza met privately with the UNESCO Director-General at the headquarters of the OAS General Secretariat in Washington, DC. They discussed the challenges to improving the quality of education in the region, and the roles of their organizations in achieving that goal.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The B-roll of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-149/13