Address by the Minister of Education at the Ministerial Conference for Education on Sustainable Development in the Mediterranean

I welcome you to Cyprus. It is our great pleasure that this initiative of Cyprus is bearing fruit, culminating with this two-day Conference. Your response is important, since more than 20 countries, as well as international and regional organizations responded to the invitation to join forces and to even add a bit to the worldwide effort to shape a world that can give hope and perspective on the basis of the principles and values of sustainable development.

Your presence on our island is a great honor for Cyprus and me, since it comes at a difficult and politically sensitive period for the planet and particularly for our region. The organization of this conference is a true achievement, and it is at the same time the starting point of a new Mediterranean partnership in Education, Environment and Sustainable Development.

Education is the strongest and effective mean for shaping a world that is more safe, peaceful and fair; a world that lives in harmony and protecting the environment. It is no coincidence that, despite the progress made at the scientific level and in the regulations regarding the environment and the sustainable development, is in the education that particular emphasis is given in policies and strategies concerning the environment and sustainability. And this, ladies and gentlemen, because it has been proved in practice that in order to achieve sustainability, it is more important than shaping laws and scientific progress, to contribute – through education – to the shaping of citizens who operate on the basis of values, based on the respect of human rights, solidarity, respect of diversity, religion, culture, ethnicity, respect for every living organism, love for the Earth, the preservation of natural resources and the environment.

Ladies and gentlemen,

What we all want is to create the conditions, through education, for a creative and sustainable future, based on the present and using at the same time the experiences and the lessons of the past. In this framework we are structuring the Strategic Action Plan for Education on Sustainable Development in the Mediterranean. It is an effort which in effect is the result of international initiatives undertaken in the last decade for Education on Sustainable Development and that is still continuing even more powerfully nowadays. At the same time, it is structured and oriented to the new goals for the future set by the United Nations on the objectives of sustainable development by 2030, the World Action Plan for Education on Sustainable Development of UNESCO, as well as the future Action Plan for Education on Sustainable Development of UNECE.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the last fifteen years no one can ignore all these that have happened and have been achieved in the field of Education on Sustainable Development. Nonetheless we are not able to ignore what remains as challenge, especially for the Mediterranean. We are living in a region with specific qualitative characteristics. Characteristics which are reflected in our common cultural, historical and natural heritage. All these things unite us and it is along these that we should proceed, in order to be able to tackle common challenges.

I am certain that we all have many good examples of good practice to mention. This of course is very important because we have a great deal to learn and gain as states and as individuals. However, one cannot argue the fact that the phenomenon of environmental degradation as well as the phenomena of unsustainable practices are becoming more serious and stronger in our region. The phenomenon of climate change and desertification is a problem for all of us. Migration, the risks for the eradication of biodiversity and the depletion of natural resources, maritime pollution and coast pollution, waste, the destruction of our cultural heritage, safety and peace in our region are not issues of one country or another. They are our problems, they are common issues. It is for this reason that the development of the Mediterranean cooperation among the states is more necessary than ever before.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This conference is taking place in Nicosia, the last divided capital of Europe. During this period there is a culmination in the effort to solve the Cyprus problem and to reunify the country. The Cyprus government is making every possible effort to lead us to a solution which will be governed by the European principles and values, will secure human rights and fundamental freedoms for all lawful inhabitants of Cyprus and will lift of occupying troops and anachronistic systems of external guarantees. A solution which will highlight Cyprus as a factor of peace and stability in the broader Mediterranean region. Such a solution will certainly create better prospects for a more sustainable future, since major environmental problems have no dividing lines and their management can surely be achieved better in a reunited Cyprus.

Dear colleagues,

The Action Plan for Education on Sustainable Development in the Mediterranean is a dynamic, progressive and flexible policy document, which was prepared based on the criterion that can be implemented in the specific framework of each country, giving emphasis and importance to the development of the Mediterranean Partnership to the direction of Sustainable Development. It is up to us to work towards its implementation and realization. The presence of all of you today, here in Cyprus, makes me feel certain that we all share the same concerns and considerations. We are here to join forces, thoughts and voices in order to give prospects to our neighborhood. The children of Potamia primary school, our children, whom I congratulate for the strength of their works and their deeds, gave us the most powerful message and I would like to close my speech with the repetition of their words: “Give an opportunity to education, invest in education and give it the value that it deserves. The hope of all is to shape a more fair, peaceful and safe world, which will allow us to live in conditions of sustainability”.

I am certain that their message will be conveyed to your own countries. I am convinced that with the cooperation and the contribution of all of us, the results of this conference can make us all more optimistic about the sustainability and the quality of life which we envisage for the Mediterranean, Europe and the Planet. Education is our strength and we must invest in it and rely on it.

Thank you for your attention.

Source: Press and Information Office