Address by Foreign Minister Urmas Paet at the United Nations Millennium Development Goals High Level Event Roundtable on Education and Health
Millennium Development Goals High-Level Event, UN Headquarters, New York, 25 September 2008
Roundtable II: Education and Health
There are approximately 1.1 billion people in the world who live in absolute poverty, most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most lack access to basic education, elementary health care and public services. Lack of basic education deprives young people of choices and opportunities, and makes it harder to tackle poverty and diseases. Ensuring basic education and health care are the most sustainable investments that develop society as a whole.
Making education more available is one of the main objectives of Estonia’s development cooperation. Considering the limited resources, we have decided to channel our activities for the support of small number of countries or via the multilateral aid system, most prominently through the European Union and the United Nations. As an example, by contributing to the United Nations Girls Education Initiative activities we wish to promote girls’ right for equal access to all levels of education via the multilateral aid system.
We acknowledge that the best engine for innovation is to increase the role of education and research in the generation of national wealth. Therefore we actively cooperate with partner countries in support of their educational systems, also vocational training systems, provide scholarships in Estonian educational facilities and support young scientists training networks.
For years now Estonia has provided scholarships for students from Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine, as well as Fenno-Ugric students from the autonomous regions of the Russian Federation for studies in Estonian universities. In Georgia, we have also supported the national computerization project „Deer Leap”, which aims at putting contemporary ICT systems into use for its educational system.
Afghanistan, country whose challenges are among the biggest in the world, also in terms of educational MDG goals, has been chosen as one of the priority countries for Estonian development cooperation efforts. During the last years, Afghanistan has experienced expansion as regards to access to education, but its basic education status still reflects poor, especially on part of girls. As one of the example of the bi-lateral donor cooperation we support the preparation for the construction of the new premises for the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University.
Achieving educational MDG-s is not possible without improvements in reducing poverty as well as in improving health indicators, especially among the most marginalized. There are more than 15 million children orphaned by AIDS, not including the millions of children whose parents are terminally ill and most of these children have been systematically left behind. Slowest progress in health indicators continues to be in countries with highest HIV/AIDS prevalence or those affected by conflict.
Progress towards the health-related MDGs cannot be achieved without adequate investments into health systems and hospitals.
Estonia is supporting central civilian hospital of the Afghanistan Helmand province with necessary means for basic healthcare.
As of March 2008, an Estonian medical expert from the Estonian special mission to Afghanistan has been working in Lashkar Gah as part of the international Provincial Reconstruction Team. His activities have focused on improving the healthcare sector’s technical capabilities in order to provide better services for the local population in the Helmand region.
Our common effort is needed in the progress towards achieving educational and health related MDGs.
Let me confirm that Estonia will continue to steadily increase its share and role among other international donors.