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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 meeting of bilateral and multinational organizations on the global EFA initiative

UNESCO, 28 February 2001

Ladies and Gentlemen,


I am very pleased to see that so many of you have been able to make it to Paris for this meeting. We are all here to take the global initiative forward in a spirit of collaboration and common cause.

Since Dakar, UNESCO has held numerous discussions and consultations with all of the constituencies in the EFA movement. These have ranged from the highly political to the technical. One important milestone was when I first introduced the strategy paper on the global initiative before the OECD/DAC last October. The paper has been modified on the basis of your comments and you will be discussing it tomorrow. Another - the culmination of these consultations - was the meeting of the Working Group in November 2000.

This Group was set up as an informal, flexible mechanism of all EFA partners, following the strong signal given in Dakar, particularly by ministers, not to establish new, permanent coordination structures. I shall continue to convene the Working Group on Education for All annually, and expect the next meeting to take place during the second half of this year. Similarly, I shall convene the high-level policy group later this year. It was initially planned in April but, for a number of reasons, we decided to convene it at a later date. In this connection, I would welcome any proposals concerning the conveying of this meeting. Finally, as proposed at the Working Group meeting in November, I shall also convene a sub-committee whose Terms of Reference, composition and timing will form part of the discussions during these next three days.

For reasons of manageability, it was not possible to have widespread representation of the individual constituencies, including from the agency community, in the meeting of the Working Group last November. In response to the request that UNESCO should create a forum for regular consultation among the funding and technical assistance agencies, we have now invited all DAC member countries as well as OECD/DAC, all multinational organizations and not just the other four core EFA partners, and the development banks.

The 30 and more different organizations present here today have all selected their own participants, often more than one from each organization. This is an achievement. It demonstrates commitment in all quarters: UNESCOs in its mandate to coordinate all EFA partners, and yours to the EFA movement and the global initiative as a piece in the complicated equation to achieve the Dakar goals on Education for All.

With respect to the countries, the major stakeholders in the Dakar Follow-up process, UNESCO has been particularly concerned with starting up and/or sustaining the EFA process. Much of this work has been undertaken in cooperation with other agencies, in particular UNICEF.

Mention can be made of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between these two organizations for West and Central Africa, or of the EFA kits developed in order to mobilize all partners in support of the EFA movement in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the case of the Arab States region, UNESCO is specifically involved in streamlining statistics and indicators for management information systems. In the Asia and Pacific region work has concentrated on EFA plans and new mechanisms for sub-regional forum meetings of national EFA co-ordinators. High-level policy meetings have been held, for example, for Heads of West African States in Mali in November 2000, co-organized by the World Bank and UNESCO, which I attended myself. Another high-level policy meeting will take place for education ministers in Latin America and the Caribbean in Bolivia next week, which I will also attend.

At the meeting of the Working Group on Education for All, I outlined the structural reform UNESCO is undergoing, partly to become a more efficient and modern organization, and partly to bring EFA into the heart of the Organizations programme activities. I shall not repeat what I said then. But let me briefly mention some further steps which have been taken since that meeting in order to further strengthen the EFA focus internally in the Organization.

1. First, I have now appointed our new Assistant Director-General for Education who will be responsible for the Dakar Follow-up work. He is John Daniel, the current Vice-Chancellor of the Open University in the United Kingdom and President of the Open University of the United States. John Daniel will join us officially as from 2 April, but we are fortunate to have him with us during the next three days.

2. Second, our endeavours to move the global initiative forward will benefit from the financial expertise of Kosuke Nakahira, former Vice-Minister of Finance in Japan and Jean-Michel Severino, Inspecteur général des Finances in the Ministry of Finance, Economy and Industry here in France. Mr Severino, who is also former Vice-President of the World Bank, will be presiding over the meeting today and tomorrow and will also facilitate one of the group discussions.

3. Third, we will also benefit from the expertise of Mr Ingemar Gustafsson of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency who will be one of two external personalities in a small Steering Committee for the Dakar Follow-up Unit which I shall describe in a minute. Gustafsson, who is the Head of a newly created Methods Development Unit and former Head of the Education Division of Sida, is also with us in this meeting and will play an active role as a facilitator of the second working group.

4. Fourth, I have strengthened the internal Dakar Follow-up work through the setting up of the following inter-linked mechanisms: an Intersectoral Strategic Group involving all sectors of UNESCO and a Dakar Follow-up Unit in the Education Sector with its accompanying Steering Committee mainly composed of internal members, but with two external personalities. The Unit is supported by a number of correspondents based in the divisions of the Education Sector and in selected UNESCO Institutes, most of whom are present in this meeting.

The two meetings of the next three days are critical. Many are watching to see if we, the international community, fulfil our collective responsibility towards the Dakar Framework for Action. We are all aware that we need to show real progress. We will best be able to do this if we can truly reach a high degree of consensus among all partners on the interpretation of the global initiative and actions towards its achievement.

In discussing the global initiative, for which we have a collective responsibility, it is important to clarify two very common misconceptions concerning its content and UNESCOs role. The global initiative is not only about the need to secure increased funding for Education for All in the South by the countries in the North. This is a part of the picture only, as is clearly expressed in UNESCO's background document and in the programme for this meeting. Resource mobilization, resource utilization and resource management at national and international levels are all equally important.

UNESCO's role is to co-ordinate the global initiative. This is done through the strategy development in which you are all participating and through necessary advocacy which will be undertaken, amongst others, by the financial experts I referred to earlier, Kosuke Nakahira and Jean-Michel Severino. In order to avoid any misunderstanding I would like to make it clear that UNESCO is not seeking to ensure increased funding for itself and its programme activities through this initiative.

Overall international support for education in developing countries constitutes only 3 per cent of the global education budget for these countries, according to World Bank calculations. The trend in overall flows during the 1990s was an increase in private financing and a decrease in Official Development Assistance. We know that private financing needs safe investment environments. The poorest countries and social development, therefore, suffer from this trend.

As partners in the global initiative, we must do our utmost to convince our countries and organizations that increased Official Development Assistance on soft terms for Education for All is an absolute necessity if we are to reach the goals set at Dakar. Developing countries need Official Development Assistance to attract or boost international investment, to support national financial mobilization efforts and general economic and educational development, and to undertake innovative programme activities.

We know that some countries and organizations have already begun to allocate more funding for basic education. I am thinking of, for example the United Kingdom, Sweden and the World Bank. But still, we also know that the gap is tremendous, even if specific resource gaps in specific country contexts still have to be clearly identified.

What we need to try to resolve in this meeting are, at least, the first concrete actions which the international community must take in order to ensure an increase in external financing for basic education and accordingly make a real difference to those who are most in need: children, women, the poor, the marginalized and the excluded.

We should also consider whether it is useful to set specific funding targets for basic education to be met by the international community at set intervals up to 2015.

And we need to decide on concrete actions to tap resources from the private sector, private philanthropists and private foundations; to design innovative fund-raising schemes; to mobilize NGOs to their utmost capacity in fund-raising efforts; and to ensure more systematic linkages of education with other development initiatives as a way of enhancing not only funding for Education for All, but also holistic development efforts.

In this context, a core concern that needs immediate and resolute action is to ensure that the debt relief schemes truly assist in supporting Education for All at the country level. The current experiences are few and varied. No one seems to disagree on the potential of this mechanism. But many seem to doubt either its genuine use or the pace of implementation seen in relation to the EFA targets.

I know that the first working group has tabled this issue for special attention and will be able to base itself on important contributions from the World Bank and IMF. But where do the OECD countries stand on this issue? What kind of progress are they making? What explains the recent, hopefully positive developments in the United Kingdom and France in this area?

We have similar, varied experiences when it comes to the practice of donor coordination and sector-wide approaches. We are fortunate that there is such a high degree of consensus on the need to establish new modalities for international development co-operation. Although reaching general agreement is perhaps the easy part, this is still an achievement when we think of the variety of partners and interests that are concerned with educational development in the South. But, unfortunately, it continues to be difficult in practice to act together, to give up traditional domains and for leaders to take the role of followers. How far have we come? What are the core bottlenecks? Why are the experiences positive?

You will know that we have also organized an NGO consultation on 2 March, NGOs being important stakeholders in the EFA process. This is the first occasion for a more systematic consultation with the NGO community. I hope it will be a fruitful beginning of a new and productive relationship. I am delighted that so many of you will be able to participate in this consultation as well. This, again, will help us to build up consolidated views on the content, actions, steps and mechanisms that need to be taken into account in order to fulfil our commitment to Education for All through the global initiative.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have a huge and difficult task ahead of us. Occasionally we hear strongly voiced criticism in particular from the NGO community that the global initiative is not moving forward. We are moving forward, but perhaps not fast enough in their eyes. Therefore, it is crucial that we fulfil our collective responsibility to come out with a concrete action plan on the global initiative.

As I said at the beginning, the global initiative is only one piece of the puzzle to ensure success in the achievement of EFA goals. The heart of the activity lies at the country level. Nevertheless, I believe that it is critically important that the international community restates its commitment and shows its capacity to move forward through the global initiative. I hope that the outcomes of your meeting and that with the NGO community will permit me to announce the strategies and actions for this initiative on the first anniversary of the World Education Forum at Dakar. We too, at our level, must make moves that are visible. I wish you a good and productive time in Paris.

Thank you.

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