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Latest news > Oxfam on UNESCO and Dakar follow up
 
 
Dear Mr Twyford,
 
I have read with interest your e-mail message regarding UNESCO and Dakar follow-up which was circulated on 6 December 2000.
 
Let me at the outset emphasize that UNESCO welcomes all efforts by non-governmental organizations in general and especially by the Global Campaign to maintain and intensify the momentum generated by the Dakar World Education Forum. The publicity, advocacy and general interest created by the Campaign have definitely had a positive impact in terms of increased awareness about education, and UNESCO, as the designated lead agency in Education for All, is gratified by these new dynamics. UNESCO is committed to working constructively with all partners in the pursuit of the Dakar agreements and we look forward to close cooperation and engagement with OXFAM too.
 
 Of course, there are bound always to be competing views, assessments and hence debate about strategies, objectives, approaches and timing. This is healthy and indeed necessary. An open debate can actually help further our common cause and should not be shunned. For its part, UNESCO will not shy away from this, as we have demonstrated at the Commonwealth Education Ministers meeting in Halifax and the meeting of the Canadian National Commission for UNESCO in Ottawa. But we should be all clear about our respective responsibilities and mandates which determine our room for manoeuvre.
 

Advocacy organizations like yours have a different framework of operations and concerns. UNESCO as an inter-governmental organization is accountable to its Member States through an Executive Board and a General Conference. Education is one of our largest responsibilities. As such, we are bound to pursue education as a prime task in each country, involving all actors of society at large. To achieve EFA, political will, backed by open democratic debate, will be crucial. As the Dakar Framework states: "the heart of EFA activity lies at the country level". UNESCO's role will be to facilitate this process, in the service of and through engagement with our Member States and partners. Our Institutes, notably the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (which houses the EFA Observatory) and the International Bureau of Education, are important assets in helping countries build the capacity and formulate strategies they so urgently need to strengthen and expand their education systems

 
In this regard, UNESCO has been invited and encouraged by a host of partner governments and organizations to assume the role of a – hopefully trusted - intermediary between national authorities and the donor community. This happened recently at the Working Group meeting on EFA which took place in Paris from 22 to 24 November. As invited, UNESCO will therefore undertake to act as a convener and coordinator for EFA in countries and regions and, by doing so, promote the implementation of the Dakar goals. I sincerely hope that we can count on your cooperation and involvement and those of your sister NGOs and civil society organizations
 
Contrary to your perception, the Paris Working Group meeting has indeed led to a number of concrete recommendations, notably the setting up of sub-committees to accelerate progress on specific issues. For example, a sub-committee to move forward on the "global initiative" is being set up and will start its work early in the New Year. Its purpose is to design concrete strategies to ensure increased funding for Education for All, in a realistic way.
 
Other sub-committees are being set up to reflect on "codes of behaviour" so as to ensure better coherence in international partnerships at country level, as well as to develop a more operational version of the Country Guidelines on the preparation of national EFA plans of Action. This new version will also take into account the inter-agency flagship programmes, such as FRESH (Focussing Resources of Effective School Health), the United Nations Girls Education Initiative and HIV/AIDS Education.
 
A time-bound action plan which will outline the respective roles of UNESCO and its partners in the 12-month period to come will soon be finalized and published
 
Non-governmental organizations (one of which represented the Global Campaign) made much appreciated, constructive contributions at the Working Group meeting. Indeed, we noted carefully that regarding the Global Initiative, the Global Campaign stated in a document circulated at the Paris meeting that it had "listened to the critics of the GAP and that the GCE therefore is proposing a Global Initiative whose chief stock in trade would be information, not control of funds."
 
As regards financing required to achieve EFA, we may well be aspirational but we must also remain within the realm of reality. The Director-General outlined in early October in a speech to OECD/DAC the enormous task we all face in securing funding for EFA and he has challenged the donor community to deliver the supplementary level of funds required to bridge the US$ 8 billion financing gap. This was buttressed by UNESCO discussion paper Development Partner Co-operation in Support of Education for All, which addressed both the issues of resource mobilization and efficiency improvements. The presentation and paper were positively received both by OECD/DAC and by the participants in the first meeting of the Working Group on Education for All.
 
Important as funding may be, however, we should also be conscious that money alone is no panacea. It cannot by itself solve the multi-faceted and complex issue of providing quality education to all, including to the millions of out-of-school children. Here your comparison with a vaccination campaign is somewhat misleading. While vaccines can be bought with money, and a successful international fundraising campaign can mobilize private sector donors, often with direct stakes in the health and pharmaceutical markets, and help bridge the ‘health divide’, money will not suffice to bridge the "education divide", as it were. Pouring money on non-functioning education systems will regrettably not turn them into good education systems. Rather, education is a long-term undertaking that necessitates capacity-building in an open, democratic environment.
 
Besides, funding for the Global Alliance for Vaccines may have a commercial angle to it, which facilitates the emergence of public/private partnerships. In the present international climate of shrinking ODA, fundraising for education, which is more multi-dimensional undertaking, must be tackled in different, more demanding and maybe more patient ways. We should not delude ourselves that we merely need to put forward a cogent document to the G-7/G-8 summits and the funds will start to flow. No matter how well-reasoned and urgent the rationale, the history of past G-7 initiatives has shown that they evolve rather slowly
 
To be sure, achieving EFA is well beyond the scope of any single agency and will not be a simple matter of months or a one-shot campaign. We have seen more than half a century pass since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated and more than ten years since Jomtien. Expecting miracles within 6 months after Dakar may not be a realistic – or fair – expectation. UNESCO is seeking to build strong partnerships with all organizations interested in abolishing the education and knowledge gaps within the Dakar time-frame. The battle may be tedious, but we will win it only if we work together, as in the case of poverty eradication
 
 
Yours sincerely
 
Jacques Hallak
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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