By Daniel Idonor, in France
ABUJAâ€”NO fewer than 1,000 delegates from the Group of United Nations’ Education Scientific Organisation, UNESCOâ€™s E-9 Countries, worldwide are to attend a UNESCO conference from June 21 to 24, in Abuja.
The group of E-9 countries comprise nine countries that have the highest population and highest level of illiteracy, across the continents, except Europe.
The countries include Nigeria and Egypt from Africa; Brazil and Mexico from Latin America and India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia from Asia and China, which are noted for their high population and illiteracy level.
Addressing newsmen covering the 25th France-Africa Summit which opened, yesterday, in Nice, France, the Nigerian Ambassador and Permanent-Delegate to UNESCO, Mrs. Maryam Katagum, said:Â â€œthe forum is meant to bring the E-9 countries together to fashion a way forward to reduce illiteracy level in their respective countries.â€
According to her, the conference, which UNESCO believes will go a long way contributing to the achievements of MDGs, is to hold at the Transcorp Hotel, and would attract differentÂ people from the affected countries.
â€œUNESCO formed the forum to enable the Ministers of Education of these countries to come together, meet every two years and each time they select a team geared toward achieving the MDGâ€.
Mrs Katagum disclosed that â€œthe theme of the Conference taking place in Nigeria is â€œLiteracy for Developmentâ€ and will take place from 21 to 24 of June at the Transcorp Hilton Abuja. The Director General of UNESCO is expected to attend the conferenceâ€.
She stated that â€œthe impact of this is that our illiteracy figure has been rather abysmal. We are still about 54 per cent literacy and it is acknowledged that the standard is 70 per cent and above literacy levels to achieve MDGsâ€.
Fielding questions from reporters, the Nigeria envoy added that â€œthe conference would assist in garnering political support to formulate and implement policies for the attainment of the goal and for the States to buying into the policiesâ€.
Besides, she noted, â€œthe conference will come up with actionable document and not declaration that will make the E9 countries accountable and set up benchmark and peer review mechanism and improve literacy level in the countryâ€.
Speaking on her role as Nigeriaâ€™s representative to UNESCO, Mrs Katagum, who resumed duty in August 2009 about when the 35th General Conference of UNESCO was to be held, disclosed that the office of the Permanent Delegate is the Nigerian permanent presence at the headquarters of UNESCO.
She said â€œUNESCO is one of the UN Agencies that has specific mandate to ensure peace and development through intellectual cooperationâ€™s using education, science, culture communication as the areas of mandateâ€.
â€œBasically what the office does is to ensure that Nigeria is adequately represented to make sure that Nigeria makes inputs to the policies of UNESCO in line with what is happening at home and also to bring home international best practicesâ€, she said.
UNESCO, according to her, has about 194 members States, saying that â€œas a member whatever facilities UNESCO have basically in terms of policy adviser, technical cooperationâ€™s. That is what it has to offer unlike World Bank that gives money to carry out projectsâ€.