Mr Koïchiro Matsuura
Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
the High-Level Group (Education for All)
29 October 2001
President of the Executive Board,
Distinguished Members of the High-Level Group,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to bid you a warm welcome to this,
the first meeting of the High-Level Group on Education for
All (EFA). The meeting has been timed to coincide with the
31st session of UNESCO's General Conference, which represents
a golden opportunity to take the EFA message to a major international
gathering of decision-makers from around the world.
have grounds for hope that, during the course of the years
leading up to 2015, we can make real headway towards achieving
basic education for all of good quality. But we have worries
and concerns about whether some countries can overcome the
constraints that impede their educational development. Our
anxieties preceded the tragic events of 11 September in the
United States, whose consequences are casting a deep shadow
over the entire global agenda of enhancing peace, development
and security. It is imperative that we do not allow EFA to
become another casualty of these events.
believe that EFA has become even more vital as a result of
the changing international situation. One of the central themes
of the Delors Report, that of "learning to live together",
has suddenly acquired renewed pertinence and urgency. More
than ever, the contents, methods and outcomes of learning
need to be re-visited to make education a more effective and
powerful instrument for "building the defences of peace
in the minds of men". It is particularly important that
young minds are turned away from violence and are turned towards
the virtues of tolerance, mutual understanding and peace,
not only in action but also in thought and speech.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As you know, in my capacity as the Director-General of UNESCO,
I was mandated by the World Education Forum at Dakar to convene
a high-level, small and flexible group to serve as a lever
for political commitment and for financial and technical resource
mobilization. Bringing together highest-level leaders from
governments and civil society of developing and developed
countries, and from development agencies, this group is intended
to serve as a strategic means for holding the international
community to account for the commitments made in Dakar.
preparing this meeting, I have tried to ensure that the High-Level
Group is broadly representative of the global EFA constituency
and manageable in size. The Dakar Framework for Action placed
strong emphasis on "ownership" of EFA by developing
countries and on action at the national level. In light of
this, my purpose has been to guarantee that approximately
half of the main participants are drawn from developing countries.
The other categories of representation are bilateral development
partners, multilateral institutions and agencies, and civil
society. To broaden the scope of representation whilst preserving
manageability, I have invited a number of observers, whose
presence adds a further rich dimension to our meeting.
During the past eighteen months, there have been several international
and regional meetings at Minister level aimed at making further
progress towards achieving the six Dakar goals by 2015. These
meetings included the E-9 conference in Beijing in August
and the International Conference on Education held in Geneva
last month. At the working or technical level, we have now
held two meetings of the Working Group on EFA, and there are
innumerable daily contacts and regular exchanges among EFA
this inaugural meeting of the High-Level Group, the capstone
of the EFA movement is put into place. From its vantage point,
the High-Level Group can oversee the entire domain of EFA
activity and provide the political impetus to take us forward.
While not strictly evaluative in character, this meeting is
a vital opportunity to take stock of progress and problems
since Dakar and to appraise the direction in which we are
going. Thus, it affords an opportunity to review what has
been done and, perhaps more importantly, what ought to be
done, especially in terms of the six Dakar goals and related
Clearly, the purpose and functions of the High-Level Group
are crucial for the whole EFA movement. We, as representatives
of the EFA movement, need to chart the way ahead. We need
to share insights and ideas regarding how best we can meet
the EFA challenges facing us. And we need the support of everyone
here, not only now but also in the period ahead, to ensure
that EFA climbs even higher on the global agenda. It is my
hope that the Group will act as a sounding board for the EFA
endeavour, and that it will empower all of us to become vocal
and energetic ambassadors advocating not only the goals and
ideals of EFA but also the concrete modalities for achieving
them. According to the Dakar Framework for Action, the High-Level
Group is a political lever. As you know, the function of a
lever is to move things. The EFA movement needs your leverage!
Before turning to the three major strands of our programme
- political commitment, resource mobilization, and civil society
participation and partnerships - I would like to highlight
certain crucial areas of challenge which vitally affect the
realistic chances of achieving the main Dakar goals. If we
are to target our efforts where they are most needed, the
following four areas must be addressed more strongly, with
greater urgency and with enhanced levels of resources:
First, we must concentrate on building effective and imaginative
strategies for educating the poor, the excluded and the disadvantaged.
Poverty remains the greatest obstacle to realizing the right
to education. We must find ways to educate the poor despite
their poverty, amidst their poverty, out of their poverty.
Moreover, our focus must not be limited to rural poverty,
serious though this is, but must also address the desperate
conditions of teeming urban slums, where children and youth
are vulnerable to many combinations of risk and deprivation.
we must galvanize our efforts even further in seeking to eliminate
gender disparities and to achieve gender equality. The first
of the Dakar targets falls due in 2005 in regard to overcoming
gender disparities in primary and secondary education: it
is imperative that this target receives all the attention
it merits. The United Nations Girls' Education Initiative,
ably led by UNICEF, deserves much greater support than it
has received thus far.
Third, we must recognize that countries facing emergencies,
crisis conditions or post-conflict situations are in a special
category. Their circumstances are distinctive and very specific,
and so are their needs. Consequently, these countries require
more flexible responses from the international community,
responses which transcend the relief/development divide and
call for innovative inter-agency solutions.
but not least, the HIV/AIDS pandemic threatens to undo even
the limited EFA progress achieved in many countries of sub-Saharan
Africa and elsewhere. In fact, in the countries most affected,
this devastating pandemic is putting all of our EFA-related
actions at risk. Consequently, it must be addressed in a comprehensive
way and with the highest priority. We cannot afford to underestimate
the severity of impact of HIV/AIDS on the societies affected
and on their education systems. For its part, UNESCO has fashioned
a strategy of response to the HIV/AIDS crisis, with a strong
focus on preventive education, in conformity with the Declaration
of Commitment issued by the United Nations General Assembly
Special Session on HIV/AIDS last June. Preventive education
programmes need to have an immediate impact as well as a longer-term
influence on attitudes and behaviour. Other aspects of the
education crisis arising from HIV/AIDS include how to rapidly
replace a teacher who dies or falls ill. After all, in many
places the death of a teacher means the closure of a school.
We need find practical answers to these questions urgently.
These four areas of challenge demand not only speed of action
but also innovation and initiative, applied to every aspect
of our response. This does not mean totally abandoning established
approaches. The new information and communication technologies
undoubtedly have much potential in regard to distance education
for teacher training, for example, but they must be harnessed
and utilized in ways that respect the virtues of traditional
technologies and methods. Similarly, pedagogical innovations
and curricular improvements need to be introduced with sensitivity
to local traditions and cultures.
The programme of our meeting shows that there are five main
sessions, each of which addresses key aspects of the overall
EFA agenda. The subject of session one is 'Achieving the EFA
goals at the national level'. As you know, the Dakar Framework
for Action unequivocally states that the heart of EFA activity
lies at the national level. It is therefore appropriate that,
on the first day of this conference, we shall hear from two
Ministers of Education of developing countries in Sub-Saharan
Africa and South Asia - the two regions highlighted in Dakar
as those needing special attention and priority. There are
a number of other Ministers of Education with us today. We
need to know how countries facing the sternest EFA challenges
are providing the political leadership required for translating
the Dakar commitments into reality.
This first-hand knowledge is supplemented by the first Monitoring
Report on EFA. Prepared through the collective endeavour of
many agencies and individuals under UNESCO's overall guidance,
the report provides vital information on how governments are
grappling with the EFA process at the national level. Despite
major constraints affecting its preparation, the report provides
a useful basis for our discussions.
Several key questions regarding political commitment must
figure within this session: what forms of political and policy-level
leverage are required in order to find viable solutions to
the problems and issues being faced? How can we strengthen
political will at the national level so that EFA is given
the backing and priority it needs? How can governments actively
engage their national and international partners in this daunting
sign of difficulty emerges from a UNESCO survey of the preparation
of national EFA plans, namely, the disappointing finding that
the process of consultation and participation, especially
with civil society, remains rather weak. I wish to reiterate
that the processes through which the plans are developed,
implemented and monitored should be inclusive of all relevant
and active EFA partners in each country.
to achieve EFA in the time period agreed in Dakar, governments
need all the help they can get. The basis of this help should
be a wide and sustainable national consensus on EFA. The cultivation
of consensus, by the way, is a source as well as a sign of
political strength. It is also a persuasive indication to
international and regional partners that national EFA commitments
contain a promise of continuity.
process of generating national EFA plans should serve to revitalize
EFA within countries by building new capacities and by developing
a better appreciation of the issues at stake. A creative partnership
with civil society and the international community is integral
to this vision. The involvement of civil society organizations
and international agencies and benefactors from the outset
offers many advantages, not least because the seriousness
of governmental intent can be experienced by partners on a
regular, even a daily, basis.
some governments have already completed their plans and are
anticipating donor support for their implementation, the development
of systematic but sensitive review mechanisms is of some urgency.
The early involvement of multilateral and bilateral agencies
in EFA forums and planning processes at the national level
should facilitate this important task.
These and related issues are taken up in session two on 'Building
political commitment and partnerships'. The support of bilateral
and multilateral development partners is essential not only
in terms of financial resources but also in regard to strengthening
political will, governmental capacity for coordination, and
the infrastructure of EFA partnership. Innovative educational
approaches must be grounded upon national "ownership"
as well as cooperation among regional and international actors.
The inter-agency flagship programmes are so important because
they provide a vehicle for these benefits to be realized.
The integration into national EFA plans of the themes addressed
by inter-agency flagship programmes requires a more proactive
and vigorous approach by EFA partners at the country level.
Government "ownership" and coordination of these
important flagships must be encouraged. The criteria of credibility
of EFA plans may include that of incorporating and integrating
the flagship programmes in a satisfactory way.
The High-Level Group is invited to propose ways in which commitment
to EFA may be reinforced at national and international levels.
In this regard, suggestions will be most welcome concerning
new forms of partnership and areas where new initiatives and
innovations are critically needed.
would like now to address the question of resource mobilization,
which is taken up strongly in session three. The time is fast
approaching when the international community will be put to
the acid test of fulfilling its bold, oft-quoted commitment
at Dakar that "no countries seriously committed to EFA
will be thwarted in their achievement of this goal by lack
of resources." The international community has been requested
to deliver on this commitment by launching a global initiative
to 'design the strategies and mobilize the resources needed
to provide effective support to national efforts' (Dakar Framework
for Action, para. 11).
Through an intensive consultation process with representatives
of all EFA partners, UNESCO has developed an important conceptual
paper entitled The Global Initiative towards Education for
All: A Framework for Mutual Understanding. This paper represents,
I believe, the shared understanding of the global initiative
by the different partners in the movement. Allow me to highlight
some of its major points.
Increasing the level of financing for EFA is critically important.
The paper presents a discouraging analysis of the flows of
international assistance in the 1990s. One of our greatest
post-Dakar challenges is to reverse these trends so that,
in the first decade of the century, more resources for education,
in particular basic education, become available. In addition
to debt relief, we need new financial resources of a concessional
character. I look forward to our discussions on how increased
financing for EFA may be achieved and then sustained. Also
of vital interest is the question of how donor coordination
at all levels may be improved. Such coordination is essential
not only to avoid duplication, overlap and waste; it is a
key measure and instrument of the overall coherence of our
The paper points to the need to use international assistance
as a catalyst for domestic resource mobilization and for improving
national resource utilization and management. These considerations
alert us to the fact that non-financial constraints on the
achievement of EFA clearly are powerful. Since additional
financial aid should be used only where it is effective, efforts
to address and overcome the non-financial constraints should
be welcomed by recipient governments as ways to unlock their
absorptive capacity and development potential.
The paper makes a convincing case that the global initiative
must be understood in broader than financial terms. Thus,
simply increasing the amount of external financing, through
whatever chosen mechanism, does not amount to establishing
a global initiative. Furthermore, we must not forget that
resources are multiple in nature (financial, human, material,
non-material), that countries are in need of diversified resources,
and that improved resource utilization and management are
needed too. I hope we can endorse in this meeting the far
more complex understanding which has been put forward in the
paper and that we can also agree on the forms of political
and policy-level leverage that can take the global initiative
to the next stage. To facilitate this process of leverage,
the initial identification of the best practical ways to launch
the global initiative should be considered by this meeting.
The global initiative seeks to create synergy between international
development partners and countries which receive international
assistance. This synergy is based on recognized principles
of international development cooperation, namely, partnership,
ownership and leadership by national governments; dialogue
in policy formulation, implementation and monitoring; and
consistency and coherence between nationally and internationally
formulated policies, goals and targets.
synergy requires coherence, which must be reflected not only
in consolidated national EFA plans of action and education
sector plans but also in their consistency with wider international
development policy frameworks, such as PRSPs, HIPC and CCA/UNDAF.
This underlines the critical role of basic education for poverty
reduction, sustainable development and the creation of enabling
environments. Thus, while the immediate purpose of the global
initiative is to assist in the national efforts to achieve
EFA goals and targets, its ultimate purpose is to support
home-grown development processes.
I would like next to turn to the subject of civil society
participation, which is the particular theme of session four.
Since becoming the Director-General of UNESCO two years ago,
I have made the promotion of dialogue with civil society,
especially with reference to EFA, one of my foremost concerns.
The Dakar Framework made it clear that EFA will only be achieved
if it is rooted in a broad-based societal movement nourished
by viable government/civil society partnerships.
113 million out-of-school children and the 875 million non-literate
adults are evidence that the size and complexity of the EFA
challenge are too great for governments alone to address.
Even though the state's responsibilities must be reinforced,
governments need to cultivate partnerships which complement
their role in order to ensure quality basic education for
all, especially for those who have been ill-served by or left
out of mainstream education.
do this, partnerships must be built that draw on the particular
strengths of each partner. In the field of education, civil
society organizations have played roles as alternative service
providers, as innovators, as informed critics, and as advocates.
At Dakar, the international community agreed to acknowledge
and support a new role of civil society in education: as policy
partner. A new policy culture is needed which should be democratic,
open, transparent and accountable. Civil society organisations
can facilitate the involvement of local communities in EFA
and provide channels for the excluded and disadvantaged to
express their views and wishes. In all of this, the cultivation
of trust between national governments and civil society is
Dakar, where I intervened to ensure the wider participation
of civil society, dialogue with civil society on EFA-related
matters has expanded at the working level. The Special Session
in Geneva last month took this dialogue to a higher level
by presenting for the first time a platform for interaction
between civil society representatives and a large group of
Ministers of Education. This, however, was just a first step;
it is clear that further efforts will be required if this
higher level of dialogue is to lead to real collaboration
at the country level. Our own meeting provides another chance
to deepen and extend this dialogue. I hope that we can use
this opportunity to reflect on how trust and collaboration
between government and civil society can best be developed
and sustained for the benefit of EFA.
Meanwhile, I propose that we create similar forums for debate
and dialogue on EFA between Education Ministers, senior officials,
parliamentarians, academia and civil society representatives
at the regional, sub-regional and national levels. It would
be vital that the civil society representatives included teachers,
parents and students.
In our efforts to strengthen the EFA movement, I believe we
should be as inclusive as possible. Unfortunately, our attempt
to secure high-level participation here of leading representative
bodies of the corporate sector did not succeed. Perhaps we
have to devise more imaginative ways of attracting them to
the table. In this, we must draw upon the experience of the
UN Global Compact and the World Bank in laying the foundations
of a sustainable partnership with the private sector for EFA.
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the beginning of my presentation, I invited you to apply
your knowledge and experience to helping the EFA movement
to chart its way forward. To stimulate this reflection, I
would like to offer some concluding thoughts and suggestions.
The Monitoring Report maintains that, though the task of achieving
the six Dakar goals by 2015 is difficult and problematic,
it is feasible - politically, financially and programmatically.
There is reason to be cautiously optimistic. Countries, including
some very poor ones, have demonstrated that, with political
leadership and strong commitment, it is possible to attain
rapid acceleration of progress.
For such progress to occur on a broad scale, educational reform
at the country level should proceed simultaneously with significant
policy changes at the international level, especially to meet
the additional resource requirements of countries where national
efforts towards EFA will stall without further support, recognition
at all levels must demonstrate a willingness to enter into
new partnerships, including new relationships between government
and civil society. Evidence abounds that such partnerships
are both possible and effective. But, as just noted, we need
to finds ways to cultivate trust and cooperation.
A comprehensive strategy for EFA, which is in the making,
needs to establish an action-oriented and outcome-based framework
within which an effective synthesis of EFA efforts may be
achieved at all levels. A critical component of such a comprehensive
strategy is the global initiative, which needs to be launched
urgently, based on a mutual understanding of its nature and
purpose. The political leverage of this Group is needed in
order to take the global initiative forward, using some immediate
practical steps as a basis.
A more transparent international mechanism for monitoring
EFA progress would encourage a shift of focus towards increased
accountability for results. Reaching the goals of EFA will
require better systems for gathering, analysing and disseminating
information from individual countries. In this regard, I wish
to re-iterate the importance of focussing on the quality and
content of education. We cannot be satisfied with quantitative
fifth and final session is devoted to "Monitoring EFA
progress". For the High-Level Group to undertake its
work, especially to identify ways to accelerate EFA progress,
it must be well informed. In this regard, the 'EFA Observatory'
housed within UNESCO's Institute for Statistics will undoubtedly
play a key role. With the UIS in Montreal soon becoming fully
functional, we are confident that the next Monitoring Report
on EFA, to be presented at the next High-Level Group meeting
in autumn 2002, will fulfil all expectations and needs. These
needs, by the way, are not confined to the collection and
distribution of statistics but extend to careful and systematic
analysis of EFA data in order to inform policy-making processes
in a purposive way. The UIS will be supported in this by UNESCO
as a whole and by other EFA partners. I should add that the
Monitoring Report on EFA will also serve as a vital advocacy
tool for use by the High-Level Group and, indeed, by all those
involved in the EFA process.
Distinguished Members of the High-Level Group,
Our discussions occur at a time of renewed threat that other
issues, particularly security issues, will gain importance
at the expense of social sector and educational programmes.
Given our common commitment, our mandates and our shared belief
that education and EFA are vital for solving the problems
underlying our destabilized world, we must take the occasion
of this first meeting of the High-Level Group to strengthen
the political impetus behind EFA. We need to send out a strong
signal that EFA must remain high on the international agenda.
I thank you in advance for your hard work and dedication during
our two days together. The EFA cause demands that we make
progress, and I am confident we will.