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As prepared for delivery

Towards Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education: Opportunities for Action

TRANSFORMING SDG 4 TARGETS INTO IMPACTFUL REALITY

Wednesday, 19 June 2019, 11:00

ADA University

Baku, Azerbaijan 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Minister Jeyhun BAYRAMOV, Minister of Education

Dear Rector Hafiz Pashayev, Rector of ADA University

Dear Mr. Naveed Hassan Naqvi, The World Bank Group, Country Manager for Azerbaijan

Dear Mr.  Parmosivea Soobrayan, UNICEF Regional Education Advisor for Europe and Central Asia.

Honourable guests,

Fellow panellists,

Mr. Fariz Ismayilzade, Moderator of the panel session/Executive Vice Rector at ADA University

It is a pleasure and great honour to be here today, at the opening of the conference - “Towards Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education: Opportunities for Action” which unites so many organizations, programmes and initiatives!  

The concept of quality education is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the UN Member-States during the historic UN General Assembly in 2015. Specifically targeting inclusive and equitable education, Goal 4: Quality Education promotes lifelong learning experiences for all and acknowledges the importance of alternative study paths as a critical step in enabling greater employment opportunities in inclusive societies.

In Azerbaijan, UNDP capitalises on the expansion of its inclusivity portfolio in a number of ways, most of them currently being supported by our longstanding partner – the European Union. Today, UNDP and the Government of Azerbaijan are implementing two conceptually new projects to revolutionise Azerbaijan’s vocational education system and strengthen its development capacity in rural communities–both of them made possible through substantial funding support from the EU. In the west of the country, our joint work supports the establishment of the Regional Industrial VET Competence Centre in Ganja. In the south, our projects have established the Regional Excellence Centre in the Lankaran Economic region.

Set to enhance the quality, equality and inclusion in education as well as to ensure the adherence of the national vocational education and training system to European standards and best practices, one of these projects also supports a pioneering effort to establish and pilot brand new mechanisms for recognition of prior learning in the Ganja VET Competence Centre. Quite unique in nature, this initiative aims to put a system in place that would assess and validate professional capabilities of individuals, which they acquired throughout lifelong learning, both formally or informally.

Also, there is another extremely important initiative of UNDP implemented with financial support from the EU, which promotes inclusive education through traditional arts. This initiative is an example of successful collaboration with the Icherisheher State Historical-Architectural Reserve, an implementing partner of UNDP.  Within just one year, the project has established a disability accessible Inclusive Vocational Arts and Crafts Training Centre adjacent to the Icherisheher Centre for Traditional Art (ICTA), where youth with disabilities will study together with their peers who do not have any type of disabilities. The first cohort of mixed-group students enrolled in this inclusive education programme will start a new academic year this coming September and will eventually turn into skilled experts in woodcrafts, pottery crafts or simple souvenir production depending on their choice of filed and interests.

This project ensures inclusive and equitable education, as stipulated in Global Goal 4, through substantial increase in the number of the youth with disabilities involved in inclusive vocational education, promotes their social inclusion and reduces inequality through policy recommendations to all stakeholders involved in this initiative.

Apart from these landmark initiatives we are implementing together with the EU, under their well-known slogan of #StrongerTogether, UNDP promotes inclusivity rights through a number of other ways as well. Our projects with the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Population are bringing new solutions to improve the wellbeing of people with disabilities, including women, young girls and veterans of the Nagorno-Karabakh war, by creating new business opportunities to these vulnerable communities. In 12 cities and districts of Azerbaijan, we will help 500 people with disabilities establish business startups and employ other people in need of a better safety net.

Last but not least, this moth on 28-30 June UNDP will kick off the first ever Inclusivity Hackathon in Azerbaijan - called UNLIMITED -bringing together close to 100 people together. At the Hackathon, civic activists and volunteers, students, web designers, web programmers, people with disabilities, journalists, government officials, to name a few, will work in a fast-paced team environment and within only 48 hours will generate a certain number of workable prototypes that can facilitate a greater level of awareness of the challenges and needs of people with disabilities as well as help solve these challenges for them. In fact, applications are currently open for all those interested and if you want to partake in this social cause, visit the UNDP webpage to learn more about the UNLIMITED.

All of these projects have one central premise: to lead the development, which benefits all!

Positive experience of inclusion brings a lot of transformative changes into the lives of people with disabilities –from increased self-esteem and a higher quality of life to better communication and independent life skills, a greater level of trust in society and numerous opportunities for a prosperous future, including lifelong learning and career prospects. Eventually, inclusion should cover all areas of life – education, employment, social life.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In conclusion, I would like to thank both the organizers and participants of this conference, specifically the host University – ADA, their commitment towards Inclusive and equitable quality education and their demonstrated interest in expanding horizons for improved learning and employment systems in Azerbaijan.

Thank you! Chokh sag olun!

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