Education Key to Sustainable Development, Says Vatican

Address at U.N. Cites “Vicious Circle”

NEW YORK, OCT. 28, 2003 ( Sustainable development without education is impossible to achieve, the Holy See said before the United Nations.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, emphasized that point Oct. 20 when addressing the Committee of the General Assembly concerned with the launching of the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. The Decade begins Jan. 1, 2005.

Archbishop Migliore called for an end to what he called a “vicious cycle.”

“Children are not in school, because there is no school to go to or there is no money to pay the tuition fees or the teachers’ salary,” he said.

They are also hampered “because they are forced to work for their own survival or to support their family; because they have been abducted and thrust into situations of armed conflict, with schools closed or destroyed; because they belong to religious or ethnic minorities; or simply because it is impossible for them to find a school within the range of their possibilities,” the archbishop continued.

“Such children, deprived as they are of educational opportunities, are most liable to exclusion from development and, excluded from development, will most probably remain illiterate for the rest of their lives,” he said.

On behalf of the Holy See, the archbishop requested in particular that in the coming decade “the questions of gender disparities at all levels of education” be surmounted so that “girls and boys will have equal access to all levels of education.”

The papal representative assured the assembly of the ecclesial commitment in this area, which is “one of the great achievements of the Church” throughout the world.

“Thousands of primary and secondary schools as well as literacy centers, and the structures that support them, operated by Church agencies, provide a place where children, young people, and adults can build a foundation for a better life,” he reminded his audience.

“The first educator, however, is the family, where the child learns to respect his neighbor and to love nature,” he said.

“Realizing and reaching those goals may take time, but providing all with educational opportunities will have an immediate, verifiable and measurable impact on the well-being of the people of the world and on their sustainable development,” Archbishop Migliore concluded.

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