Tuesday, July 22, 2008

DG Reports on Education

On the 18th of July, Director General Koïchiro Matsuura briefed an information meeting of UNESCO's Executive Board on the status of UNESCO's programs.

This was his report on the education program:
I am pleased that so many of your questions concentrate on UNESCO’s top priority: achieving Education for All (EFA).

With respect to our global coordination role, UNESCO has been pushing hard for all stakeholders to fulfil the commitments they made in Dakar in 2000. In particular, in the run up to the G8 Summit in Hokkaido, I have been making a concerted appeal for donors to honour their funding pledges. At a forum on official development assistance (ODA) organized during the recent ECOSOC high-level segment in New York, I stated that aid to basic education was not rising nearly fast enough to achieve the EFA goals on target. I called on donors to urgently scale up their assistance, especially to Africa. The Assistant Director-General for Education has also been arguing this point in the context of the UN Secretary-General’s MDG Africa initiative.

It is therefore encouraging to see that G8 leaders have restated their determination to meet past promises. More importantly, they have recognized the need for aid – in particular aid to Africa – to increase beyond current commitments, although it is disappointing that the G8 did not make explicit quantitative pledges for education. As I have been arguing for some time, on the basis of past pledges aid to basic education will still only reach at most US$6 billion annually by 2010. This is still US$5 billion short of what we estimate is needed to achieve Education for All.

In this context, I would like to inform you that on 17 September I shall be organizing an information meeting on global trends in ODA, with the participation of the chair of OECD/DAC. This will be an occasion both to assess where donors stand in meeting their commitments, in particular to basic education, and to analyze progress towards greater aid effectiveness, in line with the Paris Declaration.

With respect to the outcomes of the Hokkaido G8, it is also pleasing to note the holistic approach to education, in particular the emphasis on quality and teacher training, and the direct reference to UNESCO’s role in promoting education for sustainable development (ESD). However, UNESCO would have liked more explicit pledges in support of adult literacy and early childhood care and education. We shall continue to advocate strongly for this.

Another focus of UNESCO’s global coordination efforts is to mobilize more coherent support for those countries with the greatest EFA needs, especially in Africa. In this regard, I would like to draw your attention to UNESCO’s proactive engagement in the Fourth Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD IV), held in Yokohama in late May. I attended the Conference personally, chairing a special MDG breakout session on education. UNESCO’s advocacy for investment in quality at all levels of the education system was taken up in the TICAD IV outcome documents, helping to influence the positive results of the G8.....

The status of preparations for the 8th meeting of the EFA High-Level Group in Oslo, in mid-December, has raised a number of questions.

I can tell you that plans are advancing well. Invitations to the Oslo meeting have already been sent. The selection of participants is based on three criteria: multistakeholder representation; relevance to the themes under discussion; and geographical balance. I would ask for the help of Board members in following up these invitations. If we are to build on the renewed momentum of last year’s meeting, and secure real commitments, we must have top-level participation from all stakeholders.

UNESCO has been working closely with the International Advisory Panel (IAP) on the draft agenda, which we intend to circulate in September. As in the past, the High-Level Group’s deliberations will be informed by the EFA Global Monitoring Report. The next Report will be officially launched during the International Conference on Education (ICE) in Geneva on 24 November. Its theme, “Overcoming inequality: why governance matters”, ties in closely with the ICE’s focus on inclusive education, which, as we know, is vital to achieving EFA.

As was the case last year, an advance copy of the GMR will be made available to the EFA Working Group ahead of its meeting in mid-November. This will enable the Working Group to distil the Report’s findings into clear policy recommendations for the High-Level Group.

Already, UNESCO is working with the IAP to identify targets in key areas such as quality and teacher training, for which stakeholders can be held to account. This is the first time that the High-Level Group meets in a donor country, and we are particularly concerned to use this to achieve firm commitments on financing.

As you can see, the IAP is helping to ensure more strategic planning and follow-up within the High-Level Group process. It is also building greater ownership, especially among multilateral agencies.

All 5 Dakar convening agencies are members of the Panel. This regular interaction is helping to reinforce multilateral cooperation internationally. However, I agree that more needs to be done to translate this into greater coherence at the country level, in line with the EFA Global Action Plan (GAP) and UN efforts to deliver as one.

In this regard, UNESCO is convening a special meeting of the Dakar 5 to discuss how we can accelerate progress, working through existing mechanisms such as UN joint programming processes and the EFA Fast Track Initiative. We will be particularly interested to examine how the UNESCO National Education Support Strategy (UNESS) can facilitate joint efforts at greater harmonization and alignment, especially in those countries with the greatest EFA needs. The meeting will take place either on the margins of the next IAP session, in mid-September in Paris, or around the MDG High-Level event, which is to be held on the 25th at the UN General Assembly in New York.

I have been invited to act as rapporteur for the roundtable on education at the MDG High-Level event. In the build up to the Oslo meeting, this will be an important occasion to advocate for a comprehensive approach to education that encompasses not just the two education-related MDGs but all six EFA goals.

As you know, UNESCO has been working hard to galvanize action to meet the youth and adult literacy goal, which of all the EFA goals has been the most neglected. The series of international meetings we have been leading in support of global literacy will be drawing to a close this September. The final regional conference, for Latin America and the Caribbean, will take place in Mexico early in September. This will be followed by a wrap-up event hosted by Mrs Laura Bush, Honorary Ambassador for the UN Literacy Decade (UNLD), in New York on the 22nd. The White House symposium will be an occasion both to assess the outcomes of the regional UNESCO meetings, and – most importantly – to identify the next steps ahead. As part of our mid-term report to the General Assembly on the UNLD, UNESCO will present a strategy aimed at accelerating international efforts to eradicate illiteracy, building on the recommendations of the regional meetings.

One final point I would like to make with respect to EFA concerns the need to broaden the EFA agenda to include post-primary learning opportunities and the world of work. The recent biennial meeting of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), which I attended in Maputo in early May, identified this as the major emerging challenge for African countries. UNESCO will carry this issue forward to the High-Level Group, highlighting the need for an evolving and needs driven approach to basic education, which comprises the lower secondary level and gives attention to knowledge and skills for life, work and citizenship.

I shall present to the Board a report on UNESCO’s action in EFA, where you can find more information on the points I have mentioned here. I shall also submit a draft outline of the new strategy that UNESCO is developing on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), which is one example of how we are expanding our support beyond the basic level in response to Member States’ demands. Ambassador Overfeld of Germany has offered to call a co-sponsors meeting on 5 September, which would help the Secretariat gain a better understanding of Member States’ needs and priorities in this area. We intend to submit the final version of the strategy to the 181st session of the Board......

A question has been asked with respect to capacity for managing the four world education conferences that UNESCO will organize over the coming twelve months. I agree that it is a heavy workload, but each event is of major strategic significance.

I have already mentioned the ICE, and the importance of inclusive education to achieving EFA. The other conferences to be held in 2009 are: the mid-term review conference for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, to be held in Bonn, Germany, in late March; CONFINTEA VI, which will be held in Belém, Brazil,in late May; and the Second World Conference on Higher Education, to be convened here at Headquarters in early July. Each conference, in its own field, will be an occasion to take stock of progress, identify emerging new challenges, and exchange good policies and practices upon which we can build. The global conferences will also be preceded by regional meetings to gain a finer understanding of specific country needs and priorities, and ensure focused and action-oriented outcomes.

Given the significance of these conferences, all relevant education divisions and institutes have been mobilized, as have other sectors concerned. The Deputy Assistant Director-General for Education Programme Management, Ana Luiza Machado is assuring overall coordination, under the leadership of Nicholas Burnett. We are working very actively to ensure synergies across the Conferences, and also to make sure there is follow-up through the next C/5.

UNESCO is also drawing on the support of other partners and experts. This includes the United Nations University (UNU), which is involved in preparing for these major education events, as well as for the Second World Forum on Science, to be held in Budapest in November 2009. The UNU Rector, Konrad Osterwalder, is himself a member of the Planning Committee for the World Conference on Higher Education. In response to the question posed by Morocco, this is a good example of how UNESCO is reinforcing its cooperation with the UNU.

Before closing on the subject of World Conferences, let me express my thanks to all those Member States who are providing support. However, UNESCO is still seeking extrabugetary funds, in particular for the World Conference on Higher Education and its preparatory meetings, but also to fill the remaining financing gap for the ICE. I therefore strongly hope that more countries will be encouraged to lend their support.

An information meeting has already been held for the ICE. If necessary, similar meetings will also be held for the other conferences.

Finally, let me say a few words about the South-South Cooperation Fund. I fully share the conviction of those who see greater collaboration among countries of the South as crucial to international development. Our support to the E-9 initiative is an example of the importance we attach to this. I am therefore eager to see resources under the Fund used effectively. We have worked closely with the G77 and China to develop the Terms of Reference for the Fund’s management. When these are finalized, activities will be selected for funding, in line with UNESCO’s priorities.

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