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Welcome Address by Mr Koïchiro Matsuura
Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
at the Meeting of the Working Group on Education for All
Paris, 22 November 2000

Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning.

It is a pleasure for me, as convenor of the Working Group on Education for All, to welcome you all to UNESCO and to this first meeting of the Group. I wish to assure you both of the great importance which UNESCO attaches to the Dakar Follow-up process and of UNESCO's commitment to fulfil its own mandate as defined in Dakar. This mandate is at the same time a vote of confidence and an immense challenge. We interpret the mandate as "leadership through partnership". This means that we have to create synergy within the array of different opinions and perspectives among all partners involved in the follow-up process while respecting, as an intergovernmental organization, that governments are the principal authority of the movement, and while respecting also the important message from Dakar that the process must be led by the countries through their governments, national NGOs and civil society.

The Dakar follow-up process is a collective undertaking at all levels and through all existing mechanisms. You will recall that it was decided in Dakar not to establish new permanent structures for EFA coordination. However, I took the decision to set up this Working Group because I am convinced of the need to carry the Dakar Follow-up process forward in an informal setting enabling partners to think and consult together and to share experiences. Let me be very clear. This is not a "mini-Dakar". This Working Group is not to take decisions on follow-up. It is rather to be understood as a mechanism for technical and informal consultation which will allow us to understand the different approaches, perspectives and sensitivities among the different partners. The outcomes of this first meeting will assist us in the preparation of the meeting of the High-Level Policy Group and in proposing other actions for the process ahead of us.

In the light of the very nature of the Working Group, I have decided to chose experienced professionals from the major partners in the regions and countries, from the international funding and technical assistance agencies, including the UN system, and from NGOs. These professionals, I stress, participate in their own right and not as elected representatives of their organizations. In this composition, I have aimed at ensuring fair balance both between North-South representation and among all committed stakeholders. I must admit that I found the former mechanism, particularly the Steering Committee, somewhat lopsided in this regard. Furthermore, I see this new composition as a careful response to the broad consensus that the key responsibility for the Dakar Follow-up process lies at the national level, and that the international community is to play a supportive, catalytic role.

Therefore, this is a meeting of technical experts. Despite the somewhat formal surroundings in this room, the intended spirit of this meeting is informality - or structured informality as some people now say. I urge you all, including my own colleagues to speak your mind freely and constructively in addressing the topics on the agenda I have prepared.

This first meeting will be followed by others which I will convene, whose composition will be revisited. Because of the need to involve all partner groups in a balanced manner, we have had to reconcile the imperatives of size and manageability in the actual composition of this meeting. We have had to adopt a principle of rotation which will allow different professionals to contribute to the deliberations in different meetings and at the same time make for manageable meetings able to reach concrete outcomes. It is critical, however, that some continuity is ensured from one meeting to the next and that the participants in each meeting share inputs and results broadly with their constituencies, in order that we can ensure continuity, institutional memory and optimal progress on the ground.

What I can say for certain, as of now, is that, when the time comes for a full review of Dakar follow-up progress, such a review will be organized as an official meeting and according to customary procedures.

UNESCO's commitment to Education for All has been expressed through numerous and varied actions taken since Dakar at the national, regional and international levels. UNESCO's action has focused on five core areas:

First, fully to integrate Education for All in all programme activities of UNESCO. This concerns education, specifically, but also inter-sectoral activities related to culture, communication and information, and the sciences.

Second, to support countries in the implementation of Education for All, for example in the formulation of education policies that cater to excluded groups.

Third, to develop regional mechanisms for capacity-building and exchange between countries.

Fourth, to champion more efficient use of resources and increased investment in basic education.

Fifth, to sustain the EFA momentum at the global level through EFA advocacy at international meetings.

UNESCO has undertaken a series of consultations with the major partners in the EFA movement - the UN system, funding and technical assistance agencies, civil society and the Member States - in order to share mutual expectations, provisional ideas and draft documents. In order to support the overall EFA movement, UNESCO has developed, in cooperation with our partners, a Plan of Action which attempts to mobilize and rationalize action nationally, regionally and internationally. In order to support countries in the development of national EFA plans, UNESCO has developed, also in active cooperation with our partners, Guidelines for the Preparation of National Action Plans for Education for All. We welcome any further reactions or comments you may have on these two core documents which also implicitly and explicitly form part of your deliberations in this meeting.

Our electronic Bulletin Board which has been established specifically for information sharing on Education for All among our partners provides you with regular updates on important events. A quick glance at the various issues will confirm to you the number of initiatives within UNESCO's five core areas of action which have been undertaken with UNESCO involvement since Dakar in countries, such as Nigeria, Pakistan, Mexico and India, sub-regionally, for example among the Arab States, and internationally, for example the upcoming Heads of States Conference on Education of six West-African countries in Bamako, Mali.

UNESCO has also already undertaken its first capacity-building seminars in order to support monitoring of the progress of Education for All and is active in several of the flagship programmes, for example on HIV/AIDS and education. UNESCO recently increased its material and financial support to E9 countries to a total amount of $3.3 million. It is developing numerous projects in the areas of literacy, girls' and women's education, and teacher training and distance education and is also supporting the sharing of experiences among these nine most populous countries.

These, and many other activities which I cannot mention here, explain, I believe, the generous financial support which UNESCO has already received for its work in this area from countries, such as Finland, France and Japan. <

You will also recall that I was personally involved in sensitizing the G8 Ministers of Education that met in Tokyo last year. This, along with my regular contacts with the current G8 presidency, resulted, I believe, in strongly expressed support for EFA in the communiqué of the G8 Okinawa Summit. I have since continued my interactions with the G8 and have also had deliberations with the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development in October this year in order to establish, on the basis of a document we proposed, a new strategy for development partners stemming from the Framework for Action adopted at Dakar. You have all received a copy of my intervention on that occasion. My core concern has been to turn political will into financial support for Education for All. My concrete proposal is for DAC member countries to seek to increase their support for education from the current $3.5 billion to reach $7 billion by 2005, $10.5 billion by 2010 and $14 billion by 2015. In the same context, I also proposed to significantly increase support for basic education from the current $700 million within such enhanced overall educational support. I hope that the discussions you will be having in this meeting will be fruitful in terms of developing the strategies and mechanisms needed to ensure international financial support for Education for All.

Finally, in the context of the overall reform of this Organization, I have introduced far-reaching changes which take particularly into account the views expressed in Dakar. The main focus of my reform is to achieve an Organization that is more streamlined, efficient, relevant and responsive to the real needs of the 21st century. These changes are of particular importance when it comes to the education sector where it is a matter of ensuring how we can best support Education for All in light of our capacities and resources. You have all received a chart showing the new organizational structure. Each part of the UNESCO Secretariat structure has to develop work programmes that respond to Education for All. The education sector, for its part, has already been consolidated into five divisions. The particular importance attached to Education for All is reflected in the proposition for an increased budget for Basic Education and in the creation of the two new, transverse divisions : Promotion of Quality of Education and Educational Policies and Strategies. It is also no coincidence that the newly appointed Deputy Director-General for Education is the Director of the Division of Basic Education, Mrs Aïcha Bah-Diallo, former Minister of Education of Guinea, whom I have by my side here today. Appointments of the directors of the other divisions are well under way. Permit me to take this opportunity to dwell also for a moment on someone whose contribution has been particularly critical for me in this transition period. This is Jacques Hallak, our current acting Assistant Director-General for Education, whom I have on my other side, and who has assisted me since the beginning of May of this year. I will shortly appoint a new Assistant Director-General for Education who will have the challenge of taking over the leadership of the education sector from someone who is renowned for his work capacity, his task orientation, and his decision-making and action-oriented leadership style. Many of you know Jacques as a shaker and a mover. These characteristics, combined with his intimate understanding of the issues at stake and his personal charisma and enthusiasm have been critically important for me and for UNESCO at this crucial juncture for the Organization. I am very pleased, Jacques, that you are chairing this first meeting of the EFA Working Group and I count on your continuing strong commitment to the EFA movement.

The EFA movement is an inclusive one. UNESCO's role is to ensure that this collective enterprise is properly federated. We need to build on the strengths of each and every actor and to ensure a consolidated movement towards common goals and targets. Education for All as a multi-faceted concept relying on global initiatives characterized by diversified interests is reflected in the programme for this meeting which is wide-ranging in terms of content, activities and participating partners. The programme reflects a balance. On one hand, a common framework of knowledge and understanding has to be built of what is happening in the regions, countries and various organizations in terms of concrete activities after Dakar. On the other, there is the need to identify core areas of key concern that deserve special attention in order to shape the Education for All process in the immediate future.

This explains why, today, you will hear from a wide range of participants on what is happening on the ground and on how certain initiatives may have been strengthened or modified or otherwise affected by the results of the World Education Forum in Dakar. During these presentations and the subsequent discussions, you are likely to begin to touch upon, amongst others, the three core issues that have been selected for in-depth discussion tomorrow:

The first one relates to the need for countries to produce Education for All action plans. As mentioned, UNESCO has developed Guidelines for this purpose as part of the commitment and duty of the international community and the UN system to assist the EFA process. You will also be discussing how nationally developed action plans can be linked with other plans, strategies and policy frameworks.

The second issue relates to a new strategy for development partners, what is called the global initiative, i.e. how the international community can best support national Education for All efforts in terms of resource mobilization. I know that this is of strong interest to all of you. UNESCO will present its work in progress in this matter. Indeed our funding strategy document already includes comments received from the OECD DAC and other partners and I look forward to your further observations and inputs. UNESCO intends to play a catalytic role for international funding.

The third question is how the Education for All process can best be monitored nationally, regionally and internationally. You will discuss UNESCO's observatory function and the need for close co-operation at all levels in this respect.

There are, of course, many other issues that also deserve ample time for discussion. This first meeting may well identify issues which could be taken up in subsequent ones. We have selected those mentioned because of their implications for the whole process and because of the necessity to reach agreement about appropriate plans, strategies and systems as early in the process as possible. You should, therefore, attach particular importance to the thematic groups which will allow you to continue in-depth discussion of the selected themes and to map the immediate steps forward.

The outcomes and recommendations from this meeting will be used in different ways to further the Education for All process. One is, of course, in your own work within your own organizations. Another is to help shape the agenda of the High-Level Policy group I am setting up under my direct authority. As we decided at Dakar, this will be an informal and flexible group. Composed of individuals from the highest levels nationally, regionally and internationally, its purpose is to ensure fulfilment of the stated commitment for the Education for All process in countries, regions and in international organizations. I hope that we will succeed in establishing a highly fruitful relationship between the work of this Working Group and the High-Level Policy Group whose first meeting is expected to take place in April of next year.

We all wish to see positive developments towards the goals and targets for Education for All and towards the other targets to reduce poverty by the year 2015. I believe that we can make true headway towards these targets even though the challenges we have ahead of us are huge. I believe so for several reasons:

There is a high level of agreement in the international community concerning what needs to be done. $ We have extensive knowledge of how to do it.

And we have the means to do it if we decide to use those means.

But we have to sustain the momentum of the political will expressed in Dakar in April and at other high-level political meetings, for example in the context of the G8 countries. We must keep the targets on the top of our various agendas internationally, regionally and nationally. And we must make a consolidated effort to translate political will and commitment into actions that can help transform the lives of those who need it the most: children, women, the poor, the marginalized and the excluded.

This must be the essence of Education for All.

This is why you are here. You are here to ensure that Education for All remains a key focus in national, regional and international development efforts. You are here to help move the process forward in a consolidated manner. This Working Group is fortunate in that it brings together such qualified representatives of both reflection and action, and of policy and practice. Let us forge the link between reflection and action. Let us together build the bridge between policy and practice.


I wish you a very productive time together during these three days. I look forward keenly to the outcomes of this meeting. And I shall do my very best to ensure that these outcomes are acted upon in our own institutional context within UNESCO and in the context of the High-Level Policy Group.

I thank you for your attention.