Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered remarks in support of the launch of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Global Partnership for Girls' and Women's Education in Paris on May 26, 2011. Secretary Clinton said, "...It is important to be reminded that we all come from somewhere, and we are all on the same journey, and the sacrifices made by so many to enable us to be up here on this stage, and those of you -- prime ministers, ministers, ambassadors, excellencies -- to be working here at UNESCO is part of the reason we believe in what we are doing. We believe that for every woman and girl and man and woman -- man and boy in the world, we can build a better future."
She continued, "...The director general and I had a chance to discuss the projects that UNESCO is pursuing around the world. And I told her that cultural preservation is a life-long passion for me. In the late 1990s, I was honored to start an initiative in my own country called Save America's Treasures and to work with partners around the world to protect historic sites and cultural landmarks. Forty years ago, the United States was the first nation in the world to ratify the World Heritage Convention. And today, we remain committed to working with UNESCO and others to preserve humanity's cultural legacy."
Secretary Clinton highlighted U.S. support for the director general's new focus on women and girls' education. She said, ..."I have been kept apprised by our ambassador, Ambassador Killion and all the work that you are doing to support this initiative. And I am confident that by working with other UN agencies, institutions, and private sector partners, UNESCO can help make a much needed difference for women and girls and their educational opportunities around the world.
"You've already heard from the director general and the secretary general that we know opening the doors of education to women and girls is not just the right thing to do; it is also the smart thing as well. The evidence shows conclusively that even one extra year of schooling leads to significantly higher wages for women and girls, which allows them to lift up themselves, their families, and contribute to their communities and countries. We have seen that when women and girls have the opportunity to pursue education, GDP grows for entire societies.
"And the benefits are not just economic. More education leads to more choices, opportunities, and useful information in how to live one's life. Birth rates, HIV infections, incidents of domestic violence, female cutting all decline when education rises. Fully one half of the drop in child mortality achieved between 1970 and 1990 can be attributed to increased education for women and girls.
"Yet women still represent about two-thirds of the nearly 800 million illiterate adults around the world. In our poorest communities, girls who are out of school today are still more likely than boys never even to start school, and this is a recipe for economic and social stagnation. No society can achieve its full potential when half the population is denied the opportunity to achieve theirs. UNESCO is already doing such important work. You're documenting and beginning to reverse these trends."
Secretary Clinton continued, "...This organization continues to be a global leader on literacy, thanks in part to the efforts of one of my predecessors, former First Lady Laura Bush, who visited UNESCO, I believe, three times and has worked very hard to promote literacy. UNESCO's Institute of Statistics and the Education for All Global Monitoring Report provides valuable information on the education of women and girls and the analysis of best practices.
"So as we celebrate the launch of UNESCO's new Global Partnership for Girls' and Women's Education, it's time to build on the strong foundation that has already been created, but to take additional steps. The United States is proud to join with UNESCO to launch what we hope will be an important new study on education for women and girls around the world. And before you say, “Another report,” which is often the reaction, let me quickly add that this report will draw on UNESCO's unique expertise in data collection and analysis to provide new insights into the causes of gender disparities and education and what we can do about them. It will focus in particular on two critical areas: adult literacy and secondary education. We are making progress in many parts of the world on primary education, but something happens at the end of primary school. And we also do not have enough opportunities around the world who adults who missed schooling to be able to return to acquire skills."
She continued, "...We hope this study will give us a deeper understanding of all the obstacles that must be overcome so that women and girls can pursue their full God-given potential. And it will help us make the case that advancing the rights and opportunities of women and girls is not a marginal concern, but a central challenge of international development. Early today, I spoke at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development about the role women and girls play in sustainable development. And we agreed on the value of good data and sound analysis, and in particular, we discussed the importance of data that is widely comparable and applicable so that nations, institutions, and NGOs can make the full maximum use of all the findings. There is so much exciting work being done and so much more we can accomplish if we do work together effectively and efficiently, and particularly if international organizations such as UNESCO make it their mission to ensure that all data is comparable, no matter who collects it, that we have some standard measures and systems of analysis. So this new UNESCO study will not just be an important step forward to get information, but the test will be how we use this information, whether we can pioneer innovative partnerships to create new opportunities for women and girls to learn and prosper."
In closing, Secretary Clinton said, "...I am proud to the be the first Secretary of State from the United States ever to come to UNESCO, and I come because I believe strongly in your mission, but I also know that in every organization in the world today, in my government, in the State Department and USAID, for which I'm responsible, and everywhere else, we're all having to ask ourselves how can we work smarter, how can we be more efficient, how do we clear away any obstacle or bureaucratic barrier that is standing in the way of us meeting the very lofty goals we have set?
"So I come today, yes, to express appreciation for the work you have done, but also to urge that you take a hard look at how UNESCO can be even better: What can be done more efficiently? What doesn't need to be done anymore? How do we find new avenues for cooperation among international institutions, with countries, with NGOs, with the private sector?
"So let me thank all of you. Let me thank the director general, because she has the leadership and the vision that UNESCO deserves in the 21st century. And let me thank you for your commitment and dedication. And finally, let me say how pleased I am that you're focusing with such intensity on education for women and girls, because I know that will pay great benefits for all of the people who will be waiting to see whether those of us who are working on their behalf can actually make a difference to help them have that better life they so richly deserve."