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February 20, 2006

In 2003, the United States formally re-entered UNESCO, the educational arm of the United Nations. In this press release, then-U.S. Education Secretary Page recognizes UNESCO as the "coordinator" for the international agreement, Education for All (EFA). He also acknowledges that the EFA agreement is the foundation of No Child Left Behind, signed by the President in 2002. EFA was first signed by President George Bush, Sr.in 1990, and it served as the basis for the federal GOALS 2000 and School-to-Work Acts of 1994. The most current EFA was signed by President Clinton in 2000. Emphases have been added.

U.S. Re-enters UN's education arm -- UNESCO
Speech of the U.S. Secretary of Education to the UNESCO General Conference
[Emphasis added.]

U.S. Department of Education
FOR RELEASE:                                                                                              Contact: DJ Nordquist
October 1, 2003                                                                                         (cell)

PARIS United States Secretary of Education Rod Paige gave the following speech today to the 32nd Session of the United Nations Educational, Science, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) General Conference regarding the U.S. re-entry into UNESCO after a 19-year absence:

"Mr. President of the General Conference, Madame Chairperson of the Executive Board, Mr. Director General, distinguished ambassadors, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to address this historic gathering:

Just over a year ago, President Bush set the United States on a course to rejoin the global mission of UNESCO and to 'participate fully in its mission to advance human rights and tolerance and learning.'

This morning in London, the Instrument of Acceptance from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is being delivered. And, as of this week, the American flag flies beside the flags of the other UNESCO member countries.

My country's First Lady, Laura Bush, spoke to you earlier this week. She is a passionate advocate for our nation's children. As many of you know, Mrs. Bush is the UNESCO Honorary Ambassador for the Decade of Literacy. I can think of no better person to represent the United States on this issue than our First Lady.

As Mrs. Bush said Monday, we hope to achieve results in four key areas: universal literacy - the opportunity for every child to read and gain knowledge; quality education - with an emphasis on tolerance and truth; post-conflict education - helping the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and African nations rebuild their educational systems; and HIV/AIDS education - because we know the best way to eradicate AIDS is through education.

Under the leadership of Director General Matsuura, UNESCO is now in a much better position to achieve its goals than when the United States left in 1984. This organization is fortunate to have his vision and I'm grateful for his friendship and for his commitment to education. We are also grateful to the many delegations for your warm welcome. We look forward to renewing old friendships and forming new ones, as we listen and learn. The United States is also delighted that Timor-Leste is now a member of UNESCO.

For almost two decades, the United States has been an observer of UNESCO's work. We return to member status mindful of your many initiatives and supportive of the goals of this organization. For instance, UNESCO's role as coordinator of the Education For All effort is vital. It supports UNESCO's Constitution, which states that the parties believe in 'full and equal opportunities for education for all.' It also supports Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, 'Everyone has a right to an education.'

Education For All parallels our efforts in the United States with the No Child Left Behind Act.
Our law provides a guarantee to parents that every child will graduate with appropriate skills in reading and mathematics. In my country, we believe that every child can learn. Like Education For All, it is a landmark, revolutionary initiative.

'An investment in knowledge always pays the highest return,' one of my country's Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, once said.

Achieving education for all is a key step for insuring a more prosperous and peaceful world. It can be a key weapon in the fight against hatred and the terrorism that it can spawn.

One way to share cultures is through shared love of language. I applaud UNESCO for its steadfast commitment to language acquisition. Those who are multi-lingual take full advantage of the culture behind the language. In our global world, multi-lingual skills are an enormous advantage. Often, those without language skills are simply not competitive. In my country, I have encouraged students to explore the beauty of second languages. I have even asked them to work harder on learning their own language.

Our worldwide commitment to education must be relentless. We must be especially cognizant of the needs of countries emerging from conflict or poverty. This point was recently discussed in Mexico City at the Third Inter-American Educational Ministerial, at which I was honored to represent my country. I know it will also be a point of discussion at the upcoming Summit of the Americas in January 2004.

There is a growing consensus that education is the best short-term and long-term means for healing, progress, and stability.

In addition, we look forward to playing a helpful role, with other UNESCO partners, to ensure that science, technology, and engineering are used ethically and practically to solve the world's problems.

Preservation of the world's increasingly endangered fresh-water resources is a significant global challenge. The United States helped found the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, which we continued to support over the past 18 years as an observer nation.

We have worked closely with other countries and UNESCO on joint research to foster progress on biodiversity, environmental policy development, and environmental monitoring around the world.

Most of you are aware of the work of the U.S. Agency for International Development. In the upcoming year alone, AID plans to provide basic education support in 48 countries, higher education assistance in 60 countries, and advanced training of individuals in 75 countries.

The United States also seeks to work with you to preserve cultural artifacts in developing countries where such treasures are otherwise unprotected. We have continued to fund and participate in the important work of the World Heritage Committee.

And, we are most anxious to share in UNESCO's important efforts to promote the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, values upon which my own country was founded.

Mr. Chairman, I thank the membership again for their gracious welcome. In rejoining UNESCO, we hope that the fabric of American society and culture will contribute to the universaility of this organization.

Together we will work for literacy, culture, peace, freedom, and tolerance. Together, we will share our common devotion to humanity, our service to those in need, our compassion for those less fortunate, and our efforts to educate all children. I am pleased we will make this journey together."

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