UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION
by Mr Koïchiro Matsuura
Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
the NGO consultation on the global initiative
2 March 2001
Good morning, and welcome to Paris and UNESCO. I have been
looking forward to the opportunity to welcome the broader
NGO community. I have already met with representatives of
many NGOs since I assumed the Director-Generalship of UNESCO.
Some of you I met in Dakar. But this is my first opportunity
to address a large cross-section of your community. I also
welcome once again those representatives of the bilateral
and multinational organizations who have been able to stay
for this consultation. I appreciate very much the opportunity
their presence provides for cross-consultation between the
NGO community and funding and technical assistance agencies.
I take this opportunity to express my special gratitude to
Mr Bernard Loing, representative to UNESCO of the International
Council for Distance Education, and member of the NGO-UNESCO
Liaison Committee, for having agreed at somewhat short notice
to chair this meeting on behalf of the Liaison Committee.
I have, of course, discussed UNESCO's relations with the NGO
community on several occasions with the elected officials
of the NGO/UNESCO Liaison Committee and in the NGO Collective
Consultation on Education for All. Many of you participate
actively in these partnership mechanisms and joint activities.
Some of you have been critical of the existing mechanisms
which we are continuously trying to improve. You may be aware
that the working of the Collective consultation is being reviewed
in order better to respond to the changing landscape and roles
of NGOs and the new challenges of the Dakar Framework for
Action. The reform and a work plan of joint activities will
be on the agenda of the 2001 annual meeting of the Collective
Consultation of NGOs on Education for All scheduled to be
held in June. I attach great importance to hearing the NGOs'
own views on this. Indeed, within the context of UNESCO's
long-standing statutory framework for cooperation with NGOs,
these mechanisms are yours as much as they are UNESCO's.
I want to make one thing very clear. UNESCO wishes to create
a collective dialogue among all partners of the EFA movement
and to co-ordinate the EFA movement as a collective responsibility.
NGOs are a very important stakeholder in that movement and
our partnership mechanisms are important channels of communication
and joint action. They represent vigour and innovation. They
are people-centred, working at grass-roots level. They are
bottom-up and action-oriented. They bring an essential, dynamic
force to UNESCO, as an inter-governmental organization, and
to other multinational and bilateral agencies that work at
the policy level, through intricate and lengthy procedures.
With the changing role and landscape of NGOs it will be an
ongoing challenge to ensure full consideration and involvement
of everyone in, what I consider to be, a collective EFA movement
of collective responsibility among all partners.
In this movement, I see one of UNESCO's roles as creating
synergy within the array of different opinions and perspectives
among all partners. In doing so, I, as Director-General of
an inter-governmental organization, am answerable to governments
as the principal authority of the movement and recognize the
need for the process to be led by the countries through their
governments, national NGOs and civil society at large.
is why I decided to convene a Working Group on Education for
All on an annual basis. I expect the next meeting to take
place in the second half of this year. You will remember that,
at the World Education Forum, Ministers argued strongly against
setting up another co-ordination mechanism for the EFA movement.
Instead, the Working Group provides a forum for wide and in-depth
exchange among stakeholders on what is happening in fulfilment
of the Dakar goals on the ground in the regions and in individual
countries, within the multinational and national agencies,
and concerning the involvement of national and international
NGOs. It is also a forum for professional and technical discussion
of selected issues. For manageability's sake, the number of
NGO representatives, like that of other stakeholders, had
to be limited at the first meeting. Those who attended did,
however, interact very well within the group and contributed
largely to its outcome. Such collective dialogue is absolutely
As such, the role of the Working Group is to be seen as helping
to shape actual strategies for the EFA movement, making recommendations
for specific steps to be taken, and identifying key issues.
But actual strategies, I believe, must also be based on close
interactions on the international, regional and national levels.
This is currently being done concerning the global initiative
and other ongoing programmes promoting EFA. Part of your discussion
today will also concern the relevance of other mechanisms,
in particular a sub-committee on the global initiative whose
Terms of Reference, composition and timing need to be defined.
Finally, as you know, I shall also convene later in the year
the high-level policy group. The role of this mechanism is
vital to ensure sustained political commitment to Dakar Follow-up.
do not share the opinion of those who criticize UNESCO for
moving too slowy. I believe in deliberate and carefully thought-out
action and need first to listen to all stakeholders. Communication
and information about what we are each doing is important
in this regard. Let me, therefore, remind you that UNESCO
does have an EFA website, an electronic bulletin board with
regular updates on EFA events and activities, and is working
on particularly an EFA portal and mapping of EFA at the country
But UNESCO's work is not just a matter of what we do have
at Headquarters. Indeed it is just as importantly through
our institutes and regional and national offices. In response
to the Dakar Framework for Action's call for national action
plans by 2002, UNESCO has developed guidelines which have
been used by countries and other agencies in many specific
cases, for example in India, Pakistan and Tunisia. UNESCO
is also working with other agencies, in particular UNICEF,
with which it has signed Memoranda of Understanding concerning
follow-up work in both West and Central Africa. UNICEF and
UNESCO are developing EFA kits targeted at different stakeholders
in order to mobilize all partners and identify funding in
Latin America and the Caribbean. In the Arab States and other
regions, UNESCO is involved in streamlining statistics and
indicators for management information systems. In the Asia
and Pacific Region, work has so far concentrated on EFA plans
and new mechanisms for sub-regional EFA fora. I could go on.
me also refer to our work with other multinational and bilateral
agencies. I am thinking, in particular, of my appearance in
the OECD/DAC in October 2000 at which I first discussed the
ideas contained in the UNESCO strategy paper on the global
initiative and the importance of increasing Official Development
Assistance for education, in general, and for basic education,
I recently visited the United Kingdom where I notably met
the President of Oxfam, Great Britain, Lord Joel Joffe and
others, to discuss ways of strengthening collaboration with
NGOs. At the regional level, I can refer to my personal participation
in the meeting of Heads of State in Mali in November 2000,
and of Education Ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean
in Bolivia which takes place next week. UNESCO will also participate
in the meeting of Education Ministers of South Asia in Nepal
in early April.
The consultation with you today will focus on the strategy
paper developed by UNESCO. I should like to extend my gratitude
to the Global Campaign for the excellent comments it has already
provided on this paper. These will be taken into consideration
in the revision work which will begin after these meetings
this week. We need to reach as high a degree of consensus
as possible on the conceptual understandings put forward in
that paper and to design specific actions for implementation.
My hope is that we can reach sufficient consensus for me to
be able publicly to announce the strategies and actions for
the global initiative on the first anniversary of Dakar in
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We all know what a difficult task we have ahead of us. As
partners, we have to be realistic about what we can do, when
and how. UNESCO seeks to strengthen its collaboration with
the NGO community and would appreciate proposals from the
NGO community on how best to do this. Within this framework
you are invited to contribute to the preparation of the 2001
Annual Meeting of the Collective Consultation of NGOs on EFA
which I mentioned earlier. I value the critical voice of NGOs
and their watchdog role vis-à-vis governments and agencies.
I firmly believe that NGOs have an important advocacy role
to fulfil and that they strengthen the EFA movement through
their rich, innovative experiences at the micro level and
their strong relations with wider civil society. I also hope,
therefore, that this first, broad consultation can be the
foundation for the best possible cooperation between NGOs
and other EFA partners, generally, and in particular UNESCO.
It is, in the final analysis, in our common interests to make
progress towards the EFA goals.
wish you a productive and successful meeting.