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First meeting / Document 13
Development Partner Co-operation in Support
of Education for All: Rationale and Strategies

"A Discussion Paper © UNESCO not to be quoted
without the permission of UNESCO"

Draft of work in progress

UNESCO was mandated at the World Education Forum in Dakar (April 2000) to co-ordinate a global initiative aimed at formulating the strategies and mobilizing the resources needed to provide effective support to national efforts in the achievement of the goals and targets of Education for All (EFA) by the years 2005 and 2015. According to the Framework for Action, the following elements should be considered:
(1) increasing external finance for education, in particular basic education;

(2) ensuring greater predictability in the flow of external assistance;

(3) providing earlier, deeper and broader debt relief and/or debt cancellation for poverty reduction, with a strong commitment to basic education;

(4) facilitating more effective donor co-ordination;

(5) strengthening sector-wide approaches; and

(6) undertaking more effective and regular monitoring of progress towards the goals and targets of Education for All, including periodic assessments (World Education Forum, 2000, §11).

These elements are understood in this paper to aim at both resource mobilization and efficiency improvements. The paper is an abbreviated version of a larger draft document which presents UNESCO's current thinking in this connection. The document represents Work in Progress and is being developed in an interactive process with UNESCO's major partners. The discussion of this abbreviated version in the meeting of the Working Group on Education for All during 22-24 November forms part of that process.

Education and human development

The EFA goals underline both the need to fulfil the right to free education for all children and the downside of globalization, namely marginalization and exclusion of population groups, countries and regions. According to the Dakar Framework for Action, currently more than 113 million children have no access to primary education, 880 million adults are illiterate, gender discrimination continues to permeate education systems, and the quality of learning and acquisition of human values and skills fall far short of the aspirations and needs of individuals and societies (World Education Forum, 2000). Furthermore, disruptive conditions related to, for example, persistent civil wars and the HIV/AIDS pandemic call for radical innovative rethinking of, or at least a much wider range of approaches to, the teaching and learning process.

This situation exists despite widespread official government support and relative consistency in international thinking on the necessity and benefits of education for development. Investment in human and social capital are now widely accepted as means of creating sustainable development, achieving poverty reduction and reducing inequalities within and among nations. The relationships between education and improved health, higher productivity, innovation, increased political participation and empowerment are comparatively well established, although many of the precise mechanisms still have to be more clearly understood, particularly in light of differences in outcomes in different contexts. Education is also central in the attempt among development partners to establish a mutually reinforcing relationship between macro-economic stability and structural reform on one hand, and growth and reduction of poverty and inequality on the other. It is reflected in the outcomes of top-level meetings, such as those of the G8 countries in Cologne in 1999 and of the G7 education ministers in Tokyo in 2000, at which investment in lifelong learning, education and skills was placed at the core of the development of future knowledge-based societies. The G8 leaders in Okinawa, according to their communiqué, would ensure 'that additional resources are made available for basic education [and] 'that no government seriously committed to achieving Education for All will be thwarted in this achievement by lack of resources'.

It is important to underline, however, that not all EFA goals seem to carry the same weight. The poverty reduction targets by 2015 and the specific goals referred to by the G8 leaders in Okinawa concern only universal primary education and gender equality. Similarly, the funding gap of an additional $7-8 billion annually identified in the Global Action Plan (Watkins, n.d.) relate to the achievement of high-quality universal primary education. One of the challenges for the global initiative is, therefore, to refocus attention on the wider basic education concept.

The context for resource mobilization

The need for resource mobilization and efficiency improvements must be seen in the context of discouraging trends in Official Development Assistance (ODA) during the 1990s. As a percentage of the combined GNP of member countries of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), ODA has fallen by more than one fifth in constant dollar terms from 1992 to 1998, whereas real net ODA in constant dollar terms dropped from a total of $60,524 million in 1992 to $50,832 million in 1998. Reductions have been largest for the largest economies, and trends in both volumes and shares for the least developed countries and for sub-Saharan Africa have been downward in recent years. Of the multilateral assistance, non-concessional net disbursements have increased, whereas concessional disbursements have dropped. Furthermore, of the total net resource flows, the proportional shares of Official Development Finance (which includes ODA) and private flows have reversed during 1991-98, private flows constituting two-thirds of the total at the end of the decade against only one third at the beginning (OECD/DAC, 2000a).

It is noteworthy, however, that education seems to have suffered relatively less. Total DAC bilateral allocation for education constituted 10.6 per cent of the total in 1998 compared to 8.7 per cent in 1991 and 11.5 per cent in 1989. In 1998, multilateral allocations constituted 7.6 per cent of the total compared to 8.8 per cent in 1991 and 4.6 per cent in 1989. The absolute value of bilateral commitments to education increased from $3,288 million in 1990 to $3,553 million (constant prices) in 1997, while multilateral funding increased from $1,748 million in 1990 to $2,789 (constant prices) in 1997 (UNESCO, 2000, p. 120). Basic education constituted one per cent of total bilateral ODA and 1.8 per cent of total multilateral ODA in 1998. The total amount for basic education, which was recently updated based on fresh information from DAC member countries, is now estimated at $700 million (instead of previously $400 million) (OECD/DAC, 2000b). This is not only remarkably low in itself, but also underlines the huge distance to the perceived funding gap of an additional $7-8 billion per year for primary education alone.

This picture of total flows highlights several of the challenges that have to be addressed if the international community is to play a truly supportive role in meeting the goals and targets of EFA. First, the recent reverse in importance of private flows over ODA seems to match the increased importance of establishing supportive macro-economic environments as a precondition to poverty reduction, social and educational development. In this thinking private sector flows are considered to be catalytic to national economic development. However, if a mutually reinforcing relationship between macro-economic stability and structural reform, on one hand, and growth and reduction of poverty and inequality, on the other, is to be established, then the comparative importance of ODA must be heightened and the underlying conditions for private flows revisited. Second, while the relative proportion of multilateral compared to bilateral assistance has remained the same within overall ODA during the 1990s, multilateral non-concessional resources now constitute the larger proportion of total multilateral assistance. This highlights a potentially continuing or increased financial burden on aid-receiving countries. Third, support for education and for basic education is feeble. This leaves national governments and the international community not only with the need to design strategies that are all-encompassing and creative in terms of approach and content, but also with the responsibility to ensure that funding is used to its maximum benefit in the pursuit of the EFA goals and targets.

Strategies for international support of Education for All

Discussions on increasing international assistance has focused particularly on private investment, improved trade relations and debt relief as potential, supplementary measures to international aid. Less influential has been the reallocation of resources from military spending, the size of which would permit immediate attention to the funding needs of Education for All (see, for example, OECD/DAC, 1996, 1998, 2000a; Watkins, n.d.; Köhler and Wolfensohn, 2000). The establishment of coherence through co-ordination, sector-wide approaches and monitoring can be understood as important measures for efficiency improvement of international aid.

International and national resource mobilization must be complementary and well targeted in the pursuit of holistic national development processes. Several pre-conditions must, therefore, be met in order for policies and strategies to be successful. One is to ensure that support for EFA not be isolated from support for the full education sector or from other core elements of a government's budget. Education for All must be linked within sector frameworks with poverty reduction and development strategies, as stated in the Dakar Framework for Action. This means coherence, on one hand, among national Education for All action plans, education sector plans, development strategies and other policy frameworks, such as the Common Country Assessments (CCA), the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), the World Bank Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF), the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) and the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative.

Another precondition is that international support be provided as a function of the different institutional and structural contexts and constraints at the national level which determine the appropriate approaches, strategies and resource utilization. In this respect, macro-economic and sectoral reform must be linked in order to ensure a supportive environment for the education system to function efficiently and effectively as a development tool. Reform efforts must include policy reform to enhance locally generated resources for education and other development purposes through, for example, more effective fiscal instruments, appropriate taxation and taxation incentives, enhanced private sector contributions and budgetary re-allocations, and the attraction of additional private international capital flows, concessional resources and improved measures for debt relief. All resources and expenditures must be treated within a common budgetary framework. Simultaneous policy reform of the education sector must aim at cost-shifting and cost-sharing, without adverse effects for the poor and without enhancing gender, rural/urban, regional and other inequalities. Efficiency and effectiveness of the teaching-learning processes must be heightened through locally adapted solutions, including the use of new information technologies as an important delivery mode. This also includes the adoption of sector-wide approaches to educational development and improving aid conditionalities.

The detailed strategy work, which must be done at the country level in view of the specific country circumstances, should take into consideration the elements of the Dakar Framework which aim at enhancing the contribution and impact of international development co-operation. UNESCO's provisional proposals are outlined in the following.

(1) Increasing external finance for education, in particular basic education

In view of the drastic decline in ODA during the 1990s, DAC member countries, in particular those with large economies, are urged to translate their expressed commitments into practice and provide increased and targeted assistance to countries most in need. Specifically, DAC member countries should:

  • Double their support for education to constitute a total of $7 billion by 2005, $10.5 billion by 2010 and $14 billion by 2015.

  • Within the foregoing increased overall support for education, significantly increase ODA for basic education from the current $700 million.

  • Fulfil their commitments towards the HIPC Initiative and ensure that significant amounts of debt relief are channelled into support for Education for All.

  • Ensure coherence and co-ordination of all assistance internationally and nationally and monitor progress towards the fulfilment of the goals of Education for All.

  • Target their assistance to achieve optimal effect, including support for innovative approaches to Education for All, partly built on best practices.
  • A range of alternative sources for mobilization of international resources must also be considered, including:

  • Former aid recipient countries and non-DAC OECD member countries.

  • Private investment financing, in particular the possibility to forge partnerships among the financial services industry, the state and civil society to promote social development and to link private and public finance with public education.

  • Non-governmental organizations, private foundations and large-scale corporate foundations to undertake innovative funding of and fund-raising for Education for All, assist in awareness-raising and lobbying together with relevant ministries, and undertake specific education programmes or provide financial support or support in kind in fulfilment of the goals and targets of Education for All.
  • (2) Ensuring greater predictability in the flow of external assistance

    Predictability depends both upon political will and procedures that take their point of departure in recipient country needs rather than aid-providing country interests. Predictability also depends on recipient country capacity to absorb and use funding in accordance with nationally defined plans and goals. Aid-providing countries and agencies must, individually and collectively, revisit their conditionalities for aid provision and ensure consistency between declared political commitment and actual action. In particular, special soft terms must be applied for education aid in view of its critical role for poverty reduction and sustainable development.

    With respect to the largest funding agencies, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, it is important that social development goals become core objectives alongside macro-economic targets in the establishment of lending programmes. In the total World Bank investment projects, the soft-loan concessional commitments through the International Development Association (IDA) should constitute a comparatively higher proportion than non-concessional lending from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

    (3) Providing debt relief and/or debt cancellation for poverty reduction and basic education

    In the current situation of declining ODA, it is important to identify innovative financial schemes which can supplement ODA financing. Debt relief and/or debt cancellation is one mechanism which, together with debt-for-development-swaps, have received strong international attention and political backing. The core notion is that forgiven debt in specific countries would be translated into social development activities, including financial support for Education for All.

    The various debt relief mechanisms must be enacted with the utmost urgency. Financing of debt relief schemes must be undertaken through the mobilization of new and additional resources, and not be diverted from already declining ODA. Furthermore, the underlying terms of the schemes must be revisited in order to ensure that they truly benefit the countries and their social and educational development. This includes possibly expanding the eligibility criteria in order that larger, including possibly some of the nine high-population (E9) countries, gain access to the scheme. The criteria must be conditioned on social and human development goals instead of short-term macro-economic targets related to the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (now the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility). Finally, countries must receive all necessary technical assistance to produce the national poverty strategy which conditions access to the scheme.

    (4) Facilitating more effective donor co-ordination

    Effective donor co-ordination aims at ensuring consistency in goals and strategies adopted by all actors as a basis to promote holistic national development processes based on national ownership and leadership, and ensuring maximum impact of international assistance. Co-ordination is, therefore, an important mechanism for efficiency gains. Coherence must be established within and across sectors and subsectors and between nationally and internationally developed strategies and plans.

    The international community needs to build on already achieved experiences at the national level through, for example, Round-Tables. There is a need for improved international co-ordination across UN agencies which might in part be achieved if UNESCO, as the specialized United Nations agency for education, became a member of the United Nations Development Group. With respect to Education for All, UNESCO has already begun its co-ordinating role through the use of national and regional UNESCO offices and, globally, through the establishment of the Working Group on Education for All and the High-Level Policy Group on Education for All.

    (5) Strengthening sector-wide approaches

    Sector-wide approaches have been identified as the best alternative or supplementary mode to the fragmented project support which characterized international development co-operation in earlier decades. Sector-wide approaches represent at the same time: a new working relationship among international agencies and between agencies and national governments based on partnerships and policy dialogue; a new framework for development assistance enabling consistency in purposes and means among all partners; and a new instrument for development assistance promoting reforms through agreed operational commitments and devolving greater authority to national governments concerning resource decisions (Ratcliffe and Macrae, 1999).

    Among the pre-conditions to success in introducing the approaches are, on the country side, a supportive national policy and institutional environment characterized by longer-term macro-economic planning, strong government leadership and effective participation of civil society organizations. On the agency side, important pre-conditions are their ability to pool funding, work within common frameworks and adopt common procedures across the participating agencies. On both sides, institutional re-arrangements and development of new, process and other skills in addition to skills in technical areas are equally important.

    The international community must provide technical assistance in order to strengthen the human and institutional environment in specific countries. It must also, together with national governments, ensure that lessons and best practices in sector-wide approaches are properly shared among all actors through research, seminar and other information and communication activities at the country level. Education sector readiness criteria must be used together with the more general macro-economic and political criteria when introducing sector-wide approaches. Alternatives must be considered for countries that do not meet the appropriate pre-conditions.

    (6) Monitoring of progress towards the goals and targets of Education for All

    Monitoring of progress must be made the responsibility of all partners nationally, regionally and internationally. It must be an integral part of national, regional and international plans and a regular activity in the Education for All efforts. It must be based on common input, output, impact and outcomes indicators which cover all aspects of the multi-faceted Education for All concept, while allowing for national adaptations.

    Appropriate education management and information systems must be set up at the country level, training programmes in base-line surveys be conducted in order to enhance the quality, accuracy and validity of data, and country capacities in general evaluation and monitoring be strengthened. Global progress towards the achievement of Education for All will be monitored through the UNESCO Institute for Statistics in active co-operation with its partners.

    Targeting of international assistance

    Targeting of assistance for optimal use is as important as actual resource mobilization. The current climate of scarce resources has toughened conditionalities and led to a strong focus on aid effectiveness. Reinforced support for government leadership, coherence and co-ordination of efforts among all development actors have led to a concentration on a more limited group of countries and areas selected for support by development partners, often based on principles of 'good' policies. Support for Education for All must, however, be based on inclusive rather than exclusive criteria. As the next step in this strategic Work in Progress, scenarios of packages of support for individual countries will be developed based on optimal use of external and national funding for holistic development purposes.


    Success in achieving the goals of Education for All depends on national and international resource mobilization, efficiency improvements and optimal targeting and utilization of the funding seen in the context of solidly developed Education for All action plans and wider education sector and other plans, strategies and policy frameworks. Although responsibility rests predominantly with national governments, the international community has a critical, catalytic and supportive role to play in fulfilment of its responsibility to reduce global inequalities and poverty. The goals of Education for All underline the right to education and the need to establish inclusive criteria for international support. Current emphases on coherence and co-ordination as expressed in the need to link national Education for All action plans with other plans, strategies and frameworks underline that support for Education for All must go beyond immediate support for Education for All goals to full support for education in national development processes.

    International financial resources are in short supply and high demand. Scarce resources have contributed to focusing attention on aid effectiveness and to narrowing the range of countries and specific sectors and areas selected for financial support by the international community. At the same time, conditionalities have toughened and recent global economic, political and social development points to likely increased dependence on international assistance. There is an urgent need, therefore, for the international community to think widely and creatively in terms of resource mobilization and to act with urgency. Traditional forms of international assistance must be supplemented with new ones, and efficiency improvements must be achieved through adoption of new procedures for international co-operation.


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