Global Co-ordination >working Group on Education for All >
Final Report of the Second Meeting, 2001

III. Comprenhensive EFA Strategy


Presentation of a comprehensive EFA strategy consisted of two parts:

'Towards a Global EFA Strategy', presented by Mark Richmond of UNESCO

an update on the global initiative by Lene Buchert of UNESCO

Although the paper used the terms 'global strategy' it was agreed in the debate to use the terms 'comprehensive strategy' in order to avoid the sense that a strategy is being planned globally into which regional and national plans would have to fit. It is rather the other way round. Further comments on the terminology were made during the group work (see below).

Towards a comprehensive EFA strategy

Mark Richmond explained that the rationale for a comprehensive EFA strategy 'rests on the argument that a global strategic framework for EFA will serve to enhance the coordination, relevance, and effectiveness of multi-partner action at all levels'. Such a strategy must offer an operational framework which is concrete, goal-oriented, problem-oriented and time-bound, and which provides a clear view of where, how and when the EFA partners can best make their
respective contributions. Mr Richmond proposed five key objective requirements of the global EFA process:

Drive: particularly political will and consensus at the national level.

Coherence: parts fitting together in a unified whole; reconciliation of agendas and interests, not competition.

Knowledge: whose knowledge in EFA processes? Includes both knowledge-building and knowledge-sharing.

Resources: the global initiative looks at human and organizational as well as financial resources.

Implementation: putting policy into practice, empowering stakeholders, finding new modalities of delivery.

In submitting the paper to the appreciation of the Working Group, Mr Richmond noted that 'the way a [comprehensive] strategy is developed will largely determine its acceptability to the EFA movement' and asked that the group make recommendations about a process of consultation.

Update on the global initiative

Work on the global initiative has moved forward over the past year with consultations with a number of stakeholders, including civil society and donors. Lene Buchert's presentation reflected this move towards a common understanding of the initiative, and she asked the Working Group to consider whether the initiative should specify financial targets and mechanisms, and to agree on the next steps within the context of a comprehensive EFA strategy. Ms Buchert outlined six areas of interpretation of the global initiative, agreed in recent consultations:

national governments and international agencies are partners

it is more than a financial mechanism, it is a means to achieve poverty reduction, wider development and an enabling environment in which education has a key role

it includes financial, human and material support, and human and institutional capacity-building

it depends on an enabling macro-economic and political environment

political will in North and South is crucial

since it is broader than merely financing, it connects with other dimensions - monitoring, coordination, knowledge-creation, information-sharing

In terms of financing EFA, Ms Buchert recalled the 0.7% of GNP official development assistance target and the 20:20 proposal for budget and aid allocation agreed at the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995), appealing for the international community to take them seriously. She also called for better targeting of aid to the
poorest countries and to sub-Saharan Africa. International aid flows need to serve as a catalyst to national resource mobilization. Monitoring and scrutiny of financial commitments to education must be part of the picture at national and international levels. She made recommendations:

to strengthen private financing

to increase grant aid

to develop the potential of debt swaps

to define criteria for inclusion rather than exclusion in allocating aid

to engage civil society more, based on decentralized approaches

to identify the impacts of globalization on EFA

to look at the question of a global fund for EFA

Ms Buchert concluded by asking three questions:

how should the global initiative be operated in practical terms - financial mechanisms, global fund, specified targets, eligibility criteria, etc.?

how can the global initiative be better linked with discussions on financing growth and development?

what should be the respective role of UNESCO and other partners in advocacy, securing funds, information clearing-house?

Reactions and recommendations

The plenary discussion focused on the comprehensive strategy, and participants asked hard questions: was it necessary? Does it put adequate focus on countries and the national level? Does it reflect a partnership approach? As the Working Group mulled over these questions, participants first expressed concern that a comprehensive strategy must reflect the diversity of partners and promote real partnership. It is a great challenge to involve all partners in the drafting of the EFA comprehensive strategy and therefore effective collaboration among partners is vital. Because of the crucial need to ensure country-level leadership in strategy development and implementation, efforts need to be devoted to maximizing linkages between international discussions and national ownership.

The United Nations Girls' Education Initiative and FRESH were cited as examples of the kind of interagency partnerships that work well. In addition, the role of regional institutions, in particular regional banks, should not be neglected, especially since similar mechanisms exist already, e.g. policy groups, etc.
The comprehensive strategy document clearly points to interdependence between institutions and between sectors if EFA is to be implemented. The ADG/ED commented on why development of this strategy had not happened earlier and pointed out that the initial expectation was that EFA strategy globally would be the sum of the national action plans; however, the whole is greater than the parts and the need for over-arching strategies is now clearly evident.

The issue of a comprehensive strategy was taken up in group work with the aim of arriving at a proposal for further development. Having questioned the need for a such a strategy, the group agreed that it should address issues which cannot be resolved by country-led processes, but which require international action. The term 'comprehensive strategy' was preferred to 'global strategy' for the reasons mentioned above and because 'comprehensive' also carries the idea of a holistic approach.

The strategy needs to be time-bound and take an evolving and flexible approach. The group felt it is rather late to be developing a strategy, but 'better late than never' in view of the need to map elements of EFA, define the roles of the various partners and set priorities. Out of this discussion there emerged a
mapping in order to identify what issues a comprehensive strategy should address so that an environment is created for success at national level.

Starting from the overarching framework of the 6 Dakar goals and 12 operational strategies, the following underlying principles were affirmed as a basis for developing a comprehensive strategy:

Poverty reduction: this is an intended outcome of EFA.

Country-based: a comprehensive strategy is rooted in and facilitates national leadership in EFA.

Root causes: reflecting national realities.

Interactive dialogue: the basis of the development and implementation of a comprehensive strategy - between all partners and stakeholders at all levels.

Ownership: being so involved in developing the strategy that each partner claims it as theirs.

Commitment: political will and engagement on the part of all partners.

Inter-sectoral: a multi-disciplinary approach which engages stakeholders across departmental (e.g. ministerial) boundaries and connects with the wider development agenda.

Multi-donor: funding coordinated from national and international sources; clear understanding of who is contributing to what.

Voices (from grassroots and all other stakeholders): space for expression of real people's concerns and avoidance of top-down planning and pontificating.

Sustainability: a long-term perspective where building capacity is basic.

Division of roles/responsibilities: recognizing who is doing what and building on each partner's strengths and comparative advantage.

The group went on to spell out the elements of a comprehensive strategy with brief comments on each (see table). A list was drawn up of those agencies that might be involved in elaborating part of the strategy relating to each element. This proposal has been left with UNESCO for further consultation and negotiation.

Elements / Comments

Planning of strategy: Encompasses all the other elements; Need to watch out for the unreached.

Policy dialogue : Linkages between practice and research; Generation of dialogue across all levels to include all stakeholders; Link educational policy dialogue to other policy dialogues.

Communication strategy : Public consumption and mobilization.

Mobilization of financial resources : Global initiative and UNESCO paper Development Partner Co-operation in Support of Education for All: Rationale and Strategies; User fees should be addressed.

Monitoring and evaluation : Standardizing and data collection must be centralized by a lead agency; Key is to support country capacity to produce data;
Principle: Broad stakeholders' participation.

Coordination and networking : UNESCO's role (see paper Towards a Global EFA Strategy); UNDG mechanism.

Generation and exchange/ sharing of knowledge : see paper Towards a Global EFA Strategy.

Advocacy : Putting pressure on governments; No single strategy fits all.

Capacity-building :Already some action on this; Strengthening capacities of governments and NGOs.

Flagships : Need to map and better define the criteria, the what, who and the relation/contribution to EFA.

With regard to drafting the comprehensive strategy the group also proposed that the following timetable be adopted:

- UNESCO paper on global initiative/financing should be ready for the HLG meeting.

- UNESCO tables a summary of progress on the comprehensive strategy during the HLG meeting.

- With respect to every element on the list, each lead agency and task team to produce a draft by end of December 2001.

- Comments on the drafts to be returned by end of February 2002.

- Final draft of the strategy submitted for approval by all partners, end of April 2002.

- Also, whenever possible, membership of the drafting groups to be drawn from among the present participants to ensure continuity.

These proposals will be taken forward by UNESCO as a matter of priority in the coming months and in full consultation with all EFA partners.