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UNESCO challenges candidates

Amidst the prevailing atmosphere of mudslinging and empty talking points, yesterday the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization National Commission of the Philippines (UNACOM) challenged the presidential and vice-presidential candidates to do more. They issued to each party standard-bearer a 12-page document outlining their policy recommendations to improve the Philippines. It is an apolitical and non-partisan attempt to refocus discussions on what is really important: Helping Filipinos. We applaud and fully support their efforts.

Over the last few months we have been discussing the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). For the simple fact that the MDGs are a starting point in discussing whatever policies and plans the candidates hopefully present. Taken in a vacuum, any idea sounds good. However, plans have to be designed to achieve an objective. Without stated goals, they are just unfocused ideas. And unless all ideas offered are geared towards achieving the same end objectives, how can they be compared?

The eight MDGs have hard targets built into them; hard targets that the Philippines agreed must be achieved by 2015. The overall theme is ending extreme poverty by 2015. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says about achieving the MDGs: “It is a practical necessity and a moral imperative.” The Philippines’ Medium-term Development Plan from 2004-2010 was even designed around the MDGs. The government should release a scorecard on the efficacy of the Plan. Since 2003 we have struggled to achieve most of the MDG mid-targets. Our next administration will be responsible for actually achieving the MDGs. We feel very strongly that every plan or idea offered on the campaign trail should be benchmarked against achieving the MDGs. It gives all involved a way to substantively discuss policy matters.

The UNESCO recommendations are another such path to policy discussion. While the goals of the UNESCO recommendations are ‘softer’ in focus than the MDGs, they are no less important. From a long-term perspective, they could be considered even more important. Coupled with the MDGs, the recommendations offer a policy framework for re-inventing Philippine society and ushering the Philippines into the modern age. From the UNESCO: “The basic human needs advocated by the United Nations and reflected in the Millennium Development Goals are: physical survival and health in a safe and peaceful environment; a level of knowledge and understanding of one’s natural, social and cultural environments; livelihood and income, including the capacity to be productive and contribute meaningfully to society; political freedom and the right to participate in social decisions.

It is within that paradigm of sustainable development for well-being that these recommendations for positive social transformation are being made. They focus on (1) Environment and (2) Human Resource Development as they relate to Macroeconomic Policy, Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, as well as strengthening Governance and Institutions.”

Leading up the election on May 10 we will continue to discuss the MDGs and will now include the UNESCO Policy Recommendations. We hope with the dual guidelines of the MDGS and the UNESCO Policies substantive and educational discussions will occur on the trail and in the media. Ideological differences between the candidates remain unclear. Everyone wants to improve education. The differences are found in what they want to improve and how. Challenging them on integrating the recommendations and achieving the MDGs gives us all an objective platform for evaluation.

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It is our hope that the candidates will carefully read, digest and utilize these recommendations. Their seriousness in truly helping the Philippines can be seen in how seriously they take the Millennium Development Goals and UNESCO Policy Recommendations.

The recommendations have been crafted with the inputs of some of the brightest minds in the Philippines. They were created without political bias, but to: “Reduce the gap between what is and what should be.”

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