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Civil Society



Who makes up civil society?

In the context of education for all, civil society can be understood as all non-governmental and non-profit associations involved in education. It embraces groups such as campaign networks, teacher unions and religious organizations, community associations and research networks, parents' associations and professional bodies, student organizations, social movements and others.

Civil society's role in education

The Dakar Framework for Action , calls for a broadening of policy dialogue between governments, civil society and other EFA partners, especially at national level. It specifically recommends to "ensure the engagement and participation of civil society in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of strategies for educational development"

Though the state has the ultimate responsibility for and authority over education, civil society organizations play a major role. Three distinct roles can in fact be identified:

  • service providers where state provision is absent or insufficient. Civil society organizations are often more flexible than the state and closer to the grassroots and local cultures. In many developing countries they take on responsibility for non-formal education programmes and are particularly successful in reaching the marginalized and excluded through approaches attuned to the needs and life conditions of the poor. They are particularly effective in areas such as community participation, empowerment, literacy, community schools, reproductive health and early childhood education is particularly valued.

  • innovators and sources of 'new' thinking and practices -- important if the EFA concept is to evolve and respond to change. In other words, they help fill the 'ideas gap'.

  • informed critics and advocates on a whole range of development issues. NGO campaigns at national, regional and international levels are lobbying in favor of free and compulsory quality education for children, youth and adults.

Civil society organizations notably in Africa, Asia and the Pacific are increasingly organizing themselves to present a coherent voice and build systematic relationships with governments and international agencies. This is evident at national, local, regional and international levels. While the Global Campaign for Education plays a strong advocacy role at international level, regional and national networks are emerging or gaining ground and communities are becoming more involved in educational issues and advocacy.

What is UNESCO mechanism for dialogue with civil society on EFA?

UNESCO's message is clear: The Education for All goals can only be achieved with the active participation of civil society organizations. Therefore, following the World Education Forum in Dakar, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura has made the promotion of dialogue with civil society one of his foremost concerns, especially with reference to Education for All. One of UNESCO key mechanisms for continuous dialogue and joint action is the Collective Consultation of NGOs on Education for All (CCNGO/EFA).

Its purpose is to:

  • Broaden and promote the concept of EFA within the perspective of lifelong learning

  • Reinforce recognition of the roles, contributions and experiences of civil society organisations in EFA so that these more directly influence national, regional and international education policies and programmes in EFA

  • Mobilize the participation of civil society organisations in monitoring and evaluating EFA goals

  • Strengthen the diverse capacities of civil society organisations, particularly at the national and regional levels

  • Facilitate joint action and cooperation among civil society organisations in EFA through networking and exchanging experiences

    For further information Please contact UNESCO contact team, email:ccngo.efa

    Events and publications

  • NGO-UNESCO Reflection Group on EFA Meeting 21 September 2004

  • NGO-UNESCO Reflection Group on EFA - Meeting 19 May 2004

  • NGO-UNESCO Reflection Group on EFA - Meeting 11 May 2004

  • NGO-UNESCO Reflection Group on EFA - Meeting 9 February 2004

  • NGO-UNESCO Reflection Group on EFA : Meeting of 2 January 2004

  • Regional Consultation of NGOs/CSOs in Africa prior to MINEDAF VIII: Preliminary Draft - 18 Septembre 2002

    Information Note [PDF] /- Practical Information [PDF]