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Latest news > Speeches > Koïchiro, Matsuura



Address by Mr Koïchiro Matsuura

Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

at the NGO consultation on the global initiative

UNESCO, 2 March 2001

Ladies and Gentlemen,

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.

May 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.

This 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 crucial.

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.

I 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 level.

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.

Let 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, in particular.

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 April.

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.

I wish you a productive and successful meeting.

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