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Statement by Danish Minister Ulla Tørnæs on WB World Development Report 2007

Presentation of the World Bank’s World Development Report 2007: Development and the Next Generation, 26 September 2006, opening speech by Danish Minister for Development Cooperation, Ms. Ulla Tørnæs. 

Let me begin by welcoming all of you and especially our guests from the World Bank and the OECD. It is a real pleasure for me to open today’s meeting, and I am delighted that this year’s edition of The World Development Report provides us with an opportunity to focus on the important issue of development and youth.     

As former Minister for Education, I fully share the vision in the report that developing the human capital of our youth is key to sustainable growth and poverty reduction. Children and young people carry the greatest potential for change in every society. But the challenges are also great for children and youth in developing countries. They are very often the most exposed and vulnerable in situations of poverty and conflict.
There should be no doubt that children and youth is a high priority in Danish development cooperation. We contribute over a number of fronts both in our bilateral and multilateral assistance. The most significant contributions can be summed up in five main points:

First of all, we support the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and we provide capacity development to assist countries implementing and safeguarding children’s rights.

Secondly, we provide substantial aid to projects and programmes aimed at children and young people through our bilateral development assistance, through our support to NGOs, and through multilateral organisations like UNICEF, UNFPA and UNDP.

Thirdly, we give significant priority to education and especially primary education. This benefits directly children and young people.

Fourthly, we give significant priority to the health sector with a clear focus on youth groups. Disease and viruses such as HIV/AIDS leave children orphaned and young people without resources and homes. We are actively trying to reduce the burden on youth through our development assistance.

And finally, Denmark has a strong focus on children and young people in situations of conflict and crisis. This is clearly reflected in our humanitarian assistance, and in the Danish actions as member of the UN Security Council.

To implement our policies, we have adopted a set of Guidelines on Children and Young People in our Development Cooperation in 2005. They  provide us with means to transform policy into action. 

Capacity development, monitoring and evaluation are crucial instruments to ensuring high quality implementation of our policy. And a major effort is also currently under way to systematically monitor and report on the performance and progress made in the Danish development assistance.

Today, I would like to highlight two areas where children and youth benefit from Denmark’s assistance, namely in education and health.

Let me take them in that order, and start with education. Our support to education is based on two pillars: The Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All-process. Denmark is strongly committed to making an extra effort to secure quality education for all. 

Since 2003 the Danish government has started 5 new education sector programmes. These programmes aim at providing better educational opportunities for both children and adults. In total, we now support education sector programmes in 8 of our 15 programme countries.

Furthermore, we support development of the education sector in Afghanistan and in southern Sudan. Education plays a key role in the transition phases in these countries. In situations of chaos and insecurity, children and young people need a place where they feel things are normal and safe. That place is very often the school.

As a major donor to UNICEF, Denmark acknowledges UNICEF’s work as lead agency in the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative. The initiative aims at ensuring that an increasing number of girls receive an education and that they stay in school.

This initiative is important for several reasons. As we all know, an educated girl tends to marry later and have fewer children. The children she gets will also be more likely to survive, and they will be better nourished and educated. At the same time, she will be more productive at home and better paid in her workplace. Furthermore, she will be better able to protect herself against HIV/AIDS. And not least, she will be able to assume a more active role in economic and political decision-making throughout her life. In other words, investing in girls’ education has an extremely high rate of return.

For these reasons, the Government has decided to contribute 25 million Danish Kroner in 2007 to the so-called “Education for All – Fast-track Initiative”. The initiative is designed to achieve the UN goal of universal primary education by 2015. Here we will place a special emphasis on improving the educational opportunities for girls.

In my mind, there is no doubt that the path out of poverty for young people starts in the classroom. Especially in Africa, too many young people are still not able to attend even primary school. Therefore, Denmark continues to keep a focus on basic education. But we need a holistic approach. Within the framework of the six Education For All goals, Denmark is now increasingly providing assistance for educational development on a much broader basis. This is very much in line with the recommendations of this year’s World Development Report. 

Now, let me turn to another key aspect of youth life, namely health. A key issue is young peoples access to reproductive services and information. The largest generation of young people ever in history is now entering their sexual and reproductive life. Their access to health services - including condoms and education - is essential if we want to reduce poverty. It is a must if we are to reach the international development goals – not least those related to fighting HIV/AIDS.

Meeting the needs of young people is both a high priority in the Danish HIV/AIDS Strategy launched in 2005, and also in our newly launched Strategy on the Promotion of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

Some religious and political forces fear that sexuality information and education leads to promiscuity. But evidence shows that information and education often result in delayed sexual debut. It reduces the number of partners, unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexual transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.

The Danish supported programme in Mozambique – the so-called Geracao Biz Programme – is a good example of the value of an integrated approach. It is a UNFPA programme for young peoples’ sexual and reproductive health and rights, including AIDS prevention. The focus is on training young people to perform dramas and conduct peer education in and out of schools. It is supporting community youth groups, and developing teaching and information materials to meet young peoples needs. I believe this programme should be a model for interventions elsewhere.

Before I give the word to the next speaker, I would like to mention that we have been pleased to provide financial support for the consultation process with youth organisations in connection with the elaboration of the World Development Report this year.

I am very pleased to present Director of the World Development Report Mr. Emmanuel Jimenez from the World Bank. Every year the World Bank produces a new edition of this impressive report. And every year the report has an important policy setting function for global development corporation. This year is no exemption. But beside the usual audience of policy makers, analysts and development practitioners, I hope that young people will also use this years report. And I do look forward to hear the presentations and recommendations at today’s meeting.

Finally, I am also very pleased that the Chairman of the OECD/DAC Richard Manning has accepted to share his views on the report. The same goes for the Chairman of the Danish Youth Council Jeppe Bruus Christensen who will also share his comments on the report.

Thank you for your attention.


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