BMUN 5 Economic & Social Committee Briefing

  1. The Question of Widening Access to Primary Education

Key facts:

  • Primary education is the first stage of compulsory education.
  • It is before pre-school or nursery education and is followed by secondary education.
  • The key aims of primary education are achieving a standard literacy and numeracy amongst all pupils, as well as establishing foundations and a basic understanding in science, mathematics, geography, history and other social sciences.
  • Usually, primary education is provided in schools, where the child will stay in gradually advancing classes until they complete that level and then change to secondary school or high school. Children are usually placed in classes with one teacher who will be primarily responsible for their education and welfare for that year. This teacher may be assisted to varying degrees by specialist teachers in certain subject area often music or physical education.
  • In 2010, the latest year with data, 84% of the global population 15 years and older were estimated to be able to read and write
  •  At the regional level, literacy rates are highest in Central Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, East Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. In these regions at least 9 out of 10 adults are literate.
  • By contrast, adult literacy rates are significantly lower in the Arab States (75%), and in South and West Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (63% in both regions).
  • Women are considerably less likely to be literate than men in the Arab States, East Asia and the Pacific, South and West Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, the female adult literacy rate was estimated to be 80% in 2010, compared to a literacy rate of 89% for men.
  • As a consequence, nearly two thirds (497 million) of the adult illiterate population in 2010 (775 million) were women.


  • Enrolment in primary education in developing regions reached 89 per cent in 2008, up from 83 per cent in 2000. However the current pace of progress is insufficient to meet the target by 2015 of widening access to Primary education.
  • About 69 million school-age children are not in school. Almost half of them (31 million) are in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than a quarter (18 million) are in Southern Asia.
  • The relative priority of various areas, and the methods used to teach them, are areas of considerable political debate and widening access to Primary education is becoming a topical issue.
  • In most countries, it is compulsory for children to receive primary education although it is permissible for parents to provide it.
  • The continuity with a single teacher and the opportunity to build up a close relationship with the class is a major feature of the primary education system and a key advantage as to why widening access of primary education is often perceived as essential.
  • Although poor-quality education exists at all levels, improvement is urged at the primary level, where children develop their basic attitudes and approaches to learning. Improving the quality of education for students in primary schools is a requirement  for developing the human resource base required to meet the changing technology demands of the 21st century


Abolishing school fees in developing nations but the consequent surge in enrolment in developing regions has brought a new set of challenges in providing enough teachers and classrooms.

Investing in teaching infrastructure and resources; for example Ghana has recruited retirees and volunteers to meet teacher demand. Additional funds have also been allocated for the provision of temporary classrooms and teaching materials.

Promoting education for girls; for example Egypt’s Girls’ Education Initiative and Food-for- Education (FFE) programme encourage girls to attend school by providing free education and by constructing and promoting ‘girl-friendly schools’. By 2008, more than 1,000 schools were built and almost 28,000 students enrolled. In conjunction the FFE programme provides school meals to 84,000 children in poor and vulnerable communities.

Expanding access to remote and rural areas; for example Mongolia has introduced mobile schools (‘tent schools’) to reach children who would otherwise not have regular access to primary education. One hundred mobile schools have been providing educational services across 21 provinces. In Bolivia, a bilingual education programme has been introduced for three of the most widely used indigenous languages. It covered 11 per cent of primary schools in 2002, expanding access to education for indigenous children in remote areas.

UN involvement

• The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) supports countries in building quality primary education systems that reach all children, for instance through the Basic Education in Africa Programme, advocating for countries to adopt legal frameworks guaranteeing 8-10 years of uninterrupted basic education.

• In Ethiopia, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) supports a programme called “Berhane Hewan” which advocates putting an end to child marriages and keeping girls in school. To encourage families to let the girls complete schooling, girls receive a female sheep upon completing the programme. In Malawi, UNFPA is working with Youth Councils to repeal a law allowing girls as young as 16 to be married and to support campaigns to keep girls in school.

• The World Food Programme (WFP) provides school meals, which act as a strong incentive for parents to send their children to school and help to build the nutritional foundation that is essential for a child’s future intellectual development and physical well-being. The programme also encourages parents to send more girls to attend classes.

• The UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) partnered with UNESCO to address problems affecting education in politically unstable environments. ESCWA was responsible for infrastructure, while UNESCO took care of training and e-learning. The initiative facilitated capacity building sessions on education strategy, instructor training and the creation of courses for teaching Arabic to non-Arabic speaking Iraqi schoolchildren.

Useful Websites:

  6. UN MDG (Millennium Development Goal): Target 2.A:  Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling

2. The Question of Enhancing the Role of LDCs as Trading Nations
Key Facts:

  • The least developed countries (LDCs) are the poorest and economically weakest of the developing countries, with formidable structural problems.
  • Among the major structural constraints hindering the development of their trade are their low export capacity, the extremely low level of their export receipts and their fluctuations, and the resulting sharp limitation on their capacity to import.
  • They face supply-side weaknesses which impede their ability to compete effectively in world markets.
  • Taken as a group, the 49 LDCs comprise roughly 11% of the world’s population, but account for barely one percent of the world’s GDP. These countries are granted special recognition in the systems of both the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
  • Thirty-three of the 49 LDCs are located in Africa. This means that Africa accounts for just over two-thirds of the world’s LDCs, and that just over-two-thirds of the 47 independent countries in sub-Saharan Africa are LDCs. Haiti is the only LDC in the Western Hemisphere, with all of the other countries in this category being located in Asia and the Pacific. Although the LDCs share many common concerns, they are often divided over issues affecting access to the US market.


  • Trade relations with the least developed countries (LDCs) are problematic. Even more than the developing countries as a group, the LDCs are widely thought to need preferential access to industrialized countries’ markets.


  • Over the past several years, many LDCs have undertaken wide-ranging reform policies and measures to improve their economic situation. As they moved along the reform path, the reform objectives became more complex and ambitious, shifting from the limited concerns of correcting macroeconomic imbalances and stabilization to promoting development by a plethora of market-oriented reforms, including improving economic efficiency, encouraging the private sector and liberalizing the external trade sector. However, despite some positive developments in a few LDCs, the reform process has not yet lifted the structural constraints in many LDCs’ economies, nor improved their supply capacity.
  •  For LDCs to break away from their marginalization and to participate more actively in the global economic processes, it is imperative that they should be supported in widening and deepening the external orientation of their economies. Without support, LDCs will probably become further marginalized as the process of globalization gains further momentum.
  • Since the establishment of the category of LDCs by the UN General Assembly in 1971, there have been several important initiatives in favour of these countries. These initiatives have attempted to address the constraints facing LDCs in integrating into the world economy and the international trading system.
  • In the Singapore Ministerial Declaration, adopted at the first WTO Ministerial Conference in Singapore in December 1996, WTO Members committed themselves to addressing the problem of marginalization of the LDCs and agreed to take positive measures, such as duty-free access, on an autonomous basis, aimed at improving their overall capacity to respond to the opportunities offered by the trading system. A Comprehensive and Integrated WTO Plan of Action for the Least Developed Countries was also adopted, which includes measures relating to the implementation of the Decision on Measures in Favour of the LDCs, as well as measures in the areas of capacity-building and market access.
  • Enhancing conditions for investment and providing predictable and favourable market access conditions for LDCs’ products to foster the expansion and diversification of their exports to the markets of all developed countries.
  • Closer cooperation between WTO and other multilateral agencies assisting LDCs to help the LDCs improve their trade performance

Useful Websites: