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Maria Minna

Remarks by the Honourable Maria Minna
Canada's Minister for International Cooperation
on behalf of bilateral donors: Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, at the closing plenary of the World Education Forum
Dakar, 28 April 2000
Prime Ministers, Presidents, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates.
I am very pleased to have this opportunity to make remarks today on behalf of the following bilateral donors: Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and my country, Canada.
After three days of discussion, our goals still remain unchanged.

We remain guided by the comprehensive vision provided in the World Declaration on Education for All as agreed in Jomtien and renewed here in Dakar.

While we support all the goals discussed this week, two in particular have received emphasis.

We remain committed to supporting universal primary education for all children by the year 2015.

We remain committed to demonstrating progress toward gender equality and the empowerment of women by supporting the elimination of gender disparities in primary and secondary education by the year 2005.

So, on behalf of the bilateral donors, I would like to offer some thoughts on the future direction of achieving Education for All, led by developing countries.
First, we must focus on equity, ensuring all are included in gaining equal access to a quality education.
Never before in human history have we been so well equipped to achieve our goal of educating girls as well as boys. It's now our responsibility to do everything in our power to make universal education a reality. And as it's already been said this week: educating girls will transform the world as we know it The same applies to educating women. This is an issue that is fundamental to our approach to development.
A second focus must be on quality education. This goes beyond the number of hours or days that children spend in the classroom. It means that the education provided is more relevant to the needs of the learners and the environment in which they live. Quality is particularly reflected in better teacher training, curriculum and education materials that lead to quality learning.
Over the past few days it has also been acknowledged that technology is an important tool for increasing access to information, knowledge and educational opportunities. Solutions to connectivity must be appropriate, affordable, and sustainable within each and every country context.
We attach great importance to programs which are designed to include children who are marginalized due to poverty, language, race, geographic isolation, disability or war. The excluded children are often girls.
Flexibility must be a mantra that guides us when the needs of the world's children are much greater than the resources of the world's donors. And that means that when we make investments in education, they address the most critical needs in the low income countries we support. As donors, we have difficult choices to make. One of those choices must be to place special emphasis on supporting countries where there has been a demonstrated commitment to a basic education program.
However, where countries have demonstrated a commitment to education but lack the required resources and capacity to carry it out, we should be prepared to consider additional assistance to make the goals they establish attainable.
It boils down to an issue of political will by all partners involved. We will look for examples of this will from developing countries in the implementation of policies such as:

transparent budgets;
the necessary allocated resources; and
a demonstration of good governance.

If developing countries can make these types of commitments, the onus will then fall upon donor countries to demonstrate the political will to make the resources available.
One example has already been clearly demonstrated. Our support for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative will allow developing countries to focus on their priorities - like education - without the burden of paying back crippling international debts.
Another example - on a personal note - is a fundamental shift I have taken to programming in my department, the Canadian International Development Agency. I have reorganized our priorities to reflect a social development agenda,focusing on four fundamental themes to development: education; protecting children; health and nutrition; and fighting HIV/AIDS. Throughout these priorities, the notion of gender equality is fundamental. These are priorities that are designed to enhance, not supersede, other important aspects of development. They all reflect the ultimate goal of poverty reduction.
But let's be frank. Without an educated, healthy society - free from disease and exploitation - there is no real hope to move forward in development. And without this social development, there will be no economic development. The two go hand in hand. And the approach is really one that links the fundamentals.
As donor countries, I believe another important approach to delivering education is pooling our resources and investing through sector-wide investments in basic education. It means for each of us as donors to lower our respective flags and harmonize our own procedures so as to focus our collective resources to have the biggest impact in the areas of most need.
Flowing from that, we support the emerging consensus on the follow-up mechanisms that were discussed earlier today. This means a strengthened and reformed UNESCO which we expect to serve as a global mechanism, mandated in coordinating Education for All partners. This includes a complete restructuring of their education program, reflecting the outcomes and priorities of the Dakar conference.
As we look forward, we want to put the emphasis on action. We do not need any more global talk shops. We need action on the ground - country, by country, by country.
It is my hope and that of my counterparts that such strategic investments will be a defining feature of the new Education for All alliance. It is the best that donors can do to help achieve education for all. The rest is in the hands of the real owners of education efforts - the families, schools, organizations and governments of developing countries and civil societies themselves.