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  Daily conference journal

 

 
Ten Years After Jomtien
 
New deal on the cards in Dakar
 
  The three-day World Education Forum, which begins in Dakar on Wednesday, should provide the international community with a major opportunity to discuss and verify the level of implementation of the objectives of Education for All endorsed 10 years ago in Jomtien, Thailand, and set priorities for the new millennium.
 
  The meeting, which will be attended by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, a number of Heads of State, the principal bilateral and multilateral aid agencies and NGOs, will deliberate on reports presented at a donors series of regional meetings held between December 1999 and February 2000.
 
  It is generally agreed that none of the objectives set by the major United Nations conferences in the 1990s, on girls' and women's education (Beijing), the protection of the environment (Rio), controlling population growth (Cairo), poverty and exclusion (Copenhagen) and the observation of human rights (Vienna), can be achieved without education.
 
   The plenary sessions will address topics such as the quality of basic education, effective use of human and financial resources, strengthening the role of communities and civil society, promoting democracy and citizenship education.
 
  Furthermore, topics as important and timely as girls' education, the abolition of child labour, poverty reduction, health and nutrition, HIV and AIDS, education technology, education and business, improving school management and the role of the media are also on the forum's agenda.
 
   These will be trashed out during round tables to be organised by specialised agencies, Ngos and other groups, and the civil society.
 
 
Mr Raphaèl Ndiaye, National NGOs co-ordinator of Senegal
 
'The NGOs will make their presence felt at the Dakar forum'
 
   Dakar, Senegal (PANA) - The World Education Forum which is taking place on African soil for the first time should provide all the actors, official, institutional and civil society stakeholders with an opportunity to take stock of Education for All worldwide "in order to build new consensus" to strengthen and advance the policies, programmes, initiatives and actions undertaken since Jomtien in 1990.
 
   In an interview with EF, Mr. Raphael Ndiaye, national coordinator of the NGOs of Senegal, the country hosting the Forum, says all the NGOs attending the forum would "bring their force to bear and influence the proceedings" in Dakar.
 
   He said the NGOs would speak out on behalf of African youth whose future will be the focus of the forum.
 

EDUCATION FORUM : Have NGOs ever been so directly involved in the process of elaborating a global consensus and what role would they play at the Dakar forum?

Raphael Ndiaye : First of all, we should congratulate ourselves for the progress we have made since Jomtien, ten years ago. Today, thanks to their experience, most countries, especially African countries, have recognized that education is a sector that the public authorities cannot and should not handle alone. Therefore, they enlisted the support of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the civil society to form an effective and lasting partnership in the pursuit of the goals of education for all.
   
    We witnessed one of the most striking examples of this partnership in Bamako, Mali, in November-December 1997, during the workshop on 'Innovative Experiences in Basic Education'. During the proceedings we raised the need to involve NGOs and civil society in education efforts so that we can meet the enormous challenges facing the sector in the coming years.
  
  Education is so important that we cannot leave the public authorities, to take sole responsibility for the sector. Thus, our participation in the Dakar forum will be the crowning achievement of our long years of battle to be heard on all vital issues affecting the population.
   
For example, at the Rio de Janeiro summit (Brazil) in 1992, there was no dialogue between the governments and the NGOs present at the Earth summit. The two groups even held their meetings in different parts of town. We dare hope that this sort of situation will never occur again.

 

Do NGOs have a special message to deliver at this Forum ?

R. Nd.: We wanted NGOs to be well represented at the Forum. Instead, about sixty NGOs from around the world will be represented by some 300 delegates. This is very small in relation to the 1,000 participants expected to be present. However, they will do their best to make their points of view heard and try to make some contributions to the great decisions the meeting will take for the future.

    At any rate, you may rest assured that NGOs will participate in the development, design, definition and implementation strategy of the forum's emergency and follow-up measures.

 

What kinds of obstacles have NGOs encountered with states, institutions and organizations in the pursuit of Education for All?

R. Nd.: We have faced many problems, although our demand was the issue of NGO legitimacy. Civil society was also fighting for recognition from the public authorities. They sought status as a partner in the design and development of certain decisions governing the education sector.

    Our struggle was long and difficult in some countries. We demanded pluralism. Thus, it is no longer possible today for one person to speak in everyone's name.

 

Which of the six regions defined by the secretariat of the Conference has been the most effective in efforts to achieve Education for All over the years ?

R. Nd.: Firstly, we should point out that the six regions are as follows: sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and Arab countries, Asia and the Pacific, North America and Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and finally, the nine most populous countries which are located in Africa, Asia and North America.

    In view of this classification, you must agree that it is difficult to answer your question precisely. Simply because, being involved only in the NGO component, I do not have an overview of what is done here and abroad by all the different actors. Close attention to the Dakar Forum, to which everyone is invited, should provide the answer to this question.

   As for NGOs, more specifically, it is already certain that in Arab countries, for example, NGOs are less developed than in sub-Saharan African countries. And NGOs are also more developed in Senegal than in other African countries. Finally, there are international NGOs which, though based in Europe, organise many activities in Third World countries.

 

What exactly do the NGOs want to be included in the new framework of action being finalized in Senegal, so that we can look back on the Dakar Forum as a real success ?

R. Nd. : We call for concerted efforts from all people of good will. This could play a capital role in the achievement of education for all. All efforts need to be capitalized on and harmonized in order to achieve real success in the education sector.

    A synthesis of the frameworks for action of all six regions could reveal weaknesses that will be discussed to find urgent solutions.

    The draft world framework of action should be enriched, even though progress has been made. The Jomtien framework of action (1990) was well thought out and remains valid. But, it is important to take account of the evolution of the situation, new demands and past errors.

    The Jomtien meeting did not include such components as new information technologies and AIDS, which has become a virtual threat to Africa's education system. Therefore, the declaration by sub-Saharan Africa includes the HIV/AIDS pandemic among its priorities.

 

African NGOs have decided to make an indelible stamp on the Dakar Forum. Why, for instance, have they been so bent on holding a debate on African renaissance during the forum ?

R.ND. : Before, during and after independence, Africans have always manifested a determination to assert their dignity. We Africans are an integral part of humankind and demand to be included in the great decisions that govern the world. But with the loss of ideology this approach has either been forgotten or set aside.

    Today, it seems necessary to reassert that Africa, though with only two percent share of world trade, wants to be an essential part of humanity. South Africans, who had their dignity denied under apartheid, are the standard-bearers of the renaissance concept.

    During the forum, we would like to highlight this concept, especially to let our partners know that the time has come to make education universal.

    Furthermore, education is the process whereby men can bring their potential to fruition. An African renaissance cannot come about without education. Concretely speaking, what is the NGOs' approach to African

 

Concretely speaking, what is the NGOs' approach to African renaissance ?

R.ND. : Our current situation, our problems, our ambitions, and perspectives will be on the menu at a round-table. Given the historical significance of the renaissance, an event has been planned for some time on the Island of Gorée, a symbolic location that was the point of departure for a large portion of the black Diaspora, some 5km off the coast of Dakar.

    The second approach will involve the organization of a 'Sound and Light show' in which children play the key role. The theme will be 'A Thousand Arms Stretching out Towards the Future'. It will be played by a thousand children of all social backgrounds in line with the racial and cultural diversity that are among Africa's assets. It is scheduled to take place on the night of 25 April on Soumebedioune Bay. The show is co-organized by ENDA Third-World and the Council of Non-Governmental Organizations.

 
Interview with
Svein Osttveit Executive
Secretary of the World Education Forum
 
 'The gouvernments cannot and should not do it all alone'
 

Education Forum : How did the idea about a World Education Forum come about and who are the brains behind it ?

Svein Osttveit : The background was that of a very slow progress in providing and expanding basic education through out many regions of the world. It was felt that existing mechanisms for co-operation did not suffice to address this critical situation. There was an urgent need to make a concerted effort, joining all relevant partners. UNESCO, UNICEF, the World bank and UNDP (UNFPA joined later) decided, following the Jomtien meeting, to set up the EFA Forum in order to facilitate and accelerate the process through better monitoring, advocacy and co-operation.

 

Why bring together all actors in education instead of the usual traditional governmental conferences ?

SO : Because of the recognition that governments cannot (and should not) do it all alone. Especially following "the expanded vision" of basic education presented in Jomtien, where education for all comprises much more than formal schooling, it is essential that civil society, media, local communities and others actively take part.

 

Could you elaborate on the Major trends of EFA since Jomtien ?

SO : The first years witnessed first of all a consolidation of partnership. The five conveners (mentioned above) were gradually joined by more active and comprehensive representation from several other EFA partners, including education specialists from the regions. The last years have witnessed a much more important role played by bilateral donors and NGOs. The EFA 2000 Assessment contributed further to mobilization of partners as well as considerably strengthening the basis for data and information on key education for all indicators as well as increasing capacities at national level in the field of monitoring and policy making.

 

In your view, what would the situation of global education today without EF ?

SO : The provision of international support would have been much more fragmented as well as a weaker data base on basic education issues. It is also clear that less co-ordination among key partners and weaker advocacy would have meant even slower expansion of educational opportunities.

 

What would you consider to be the major obstacles against EFA ?

SO : Poverty, lack of political will, HIV AIDS, conflict/civil war, population growth

 
 
 
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