Writing the Dakar Framework: “the hardest 20 paragraphs of my life”

authorThis is the third in a series of blogs taking a retrospective view of the Education for All agenda and its subsequent implementation. In this blog, Maris O’Rourke looks at leadership issues at Dakar and the difficulties of putting pen to paper. 

I’ve been involved with EFA since Jomtien in 1990 when I was Secretary for Education in New Zealand. But it wasn’t until I got to the World Bank in 1995 that it became up close and personal. When I went to the Mid-Decade Meeting of the International Consultative Forum on Education for All in Amman, Jordan in 1996, the disappointment of everyone at the lack of reliable data and the lack of progress since Jomtien was palpable. There was a strong feeling that UNESCO wasn’t leading adequately. However, this frustration also energised everyone to try and find solutions: the Global Campaign for Education emerged from that meeting, for example, as did the well-oiled EFA Forum, which met twice a year at UNESCO with Svein Osstveit as Executive Director. Both were very effective.

Credit: Monika Nikope/UNESCO 2010

Credit: Monika Nikope/UNESCO 2010

At the World Bank we had a lot of data and research on the conditions required within a country for development success. We also had a good deal of information from HIPC (the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative) on how to relieve the debt burden within countries. Thanks to this data collection, by the time the Dakar Conference came around in 2000, organisations and countries were clearer on how much progress had and had not been achieved.  We also had the results of the EFA assessment. And, there had been about 30 in-depth studies and 12 thematic studies done. More importantly, the six regional meetings had identified what the future priorities should be and, although there were regional differences, there was also remarkable consensus. We also had the regional frameworks for action. So we had something to build on when we met in Dakar; we had the status quo for the present and just needed to work out a plan for the future.

The Dakar Framework for Action was probably the most difficult, but satisfying, 20 paragraphs of my life. Marlaine Lockheed and I were the World Bank representatives sitting on the group responsible for drafting this Framework called the Futures Taskforce. This was a committed and varied group who became a strong team over the course of the Dakar preparations. We never saw daylight and slept very little.

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Posted in Millennium Development Goals, Post-2015 development framework, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Dakar process: Substance over politics

This blog looks back to the World Education Conference in Dakar in 2000 from the perspective of Abhimanyu Singh, Director UNESCO, Beijing. In the years leading up to Dakar, Abhimanyu was national EFA coordinator for India, rapporteur for the Asian region, and chaired the global drafting committee at Dakar.  This is the second in a series of blogs taking a retrospective view of the EFA agenda and its implementation.  

pencils_smAs we gathered in Dakar in late April of 2000, there were high expectations coupled with a general sense of disappointment about the slow progress towards the EFA goals adopted at Jomtien in 1990. The Dakar Framework for Action revived the flagging EFA agenda with renewed international commitments for financing EFA, six time-bound goals and twelve operational strategies. A lot has been achieved since, but the unfinished task remains daunting. At this juncture it is worth reflecting on the process and outcomes of Dakar and the lessons that could help shape the post-2015 global education agenda.

Much work had gone into the preparation of the Dakar Forum in 2000. A bottom up, participative and consultative process was initiated through the preparation of National EFA Assessment Reports. This culminated in numerous sub-regional synthesis reports, regional synthesis reports for five regions; and a draft Dakar Framework for Action. My first recommendation to those working on new education goals post 2015 is to learn from the nature of this process, which gave the Framework credibility, legitimacy and a universal appeal.

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Posted in Millennium Development Goals, Post-2015 development framework, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

The Jomtien Conference in 1990 was a game changer for education

This blog looks back at the start of the EFA movement, from Jomtien, to Dakar, to today. It is the first in a series of blogs taking a retrospective view of the Education for All agenda and its subsequent implementation.  Svein Osttveit began work at UNESCO in 1989 and was the Executive Secretary of the EFA Forum from 1998 to 2000. Here, he reflects on the key elements of the EFA movement that helped bring positive change for education over the past decade.

The Education for All (EFA) movement was originally launched by UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank, UN Development Programme and UN Population Fund in the 1990s. The unprecedented cooperation by these five convenors over the course of the coming years paved the way for what has become the most widely known set of international goals in education – the EFA goals. These originators of EFA insisted on making education a top priority on the development agenda, setting not only a good example for UN cooperation, but also mobilizing governments, civil society, education professionals and, to a lesser degree, the private sector. Their work resulted in the World Conference on Education in Jomtien in 1990 being truly visionary and agenda setting:  education was recognised as being more than just access to primary education, and also addressed the basic learning needs of all children, youth, and adults.

Picture/Karel Prinsloo/ ARETE

School children in Turkana, Kenya. Picture/Karel Prinsloo/ ARETE

During the first ten years after Jomtien an EFA Forum was set up, of which I was the Executive Secretary.  This mechanism helped the five convenors work closely together. Through the EFA Forum, we produced a programme, agreed on an operational agenda and co-financed its implementation through a jointly managed secretariat. The close cooperation of agencies,  government representatives and civil society in the Forum laid the ground for the World Education Forum in Dakar, 10 years later. The main stakeholders were in many ways far more actively involved in establishing follow up plans to Jomtien than was the case in 2000 after Dakar, in my opinion.

Towards the end of the 1990s, the whole EFA initiative was threatened by an overall frustration about the lack of progress since Jomtien. There was actually limited interest in organizing another big international conference as a result. However, there was a call for action, largely credited to civil society, to re-awaken general interest and commitment to accelerate progress and realize what we’d set out to do.

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Posted in Basic education, Developed countries, Developing countries, Equality, Equity, Millennium Development Goals, Out-of-school children, Post-2015 development framework, Quality of education | 8 Comments

Lessons from Dakar

This blog introduces a new series that will take a retrospective view of the Education for All agenda and its subsequent implementation.  As we reach the 500 day countdown until the end of 2015, this series creates a space for reflection and offer lessons learnt from those present at the World Economic Forum in Dakar in 2000 for those setting new global education goals today.

People often Captureassert that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. However, nobody would want to spurn a chance to hear from people who lived through transformative events in the past, which are relevant today. With this in mind, the GMR team approached a number of people who were present at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, in April 2000 and asked them to pen their reflections.

At the time, the education community was seeking to breathe fresh life into a process that seemed to have stalled during the decade following the 1990 Jomtien World Conference on Education for All. The Dakar Framework for Action set forth an agreement with six goals to be achieved by 2015 and a set of strategies that would help global, regional and national partners reach these targets.

With 500 days to go until the 15th anniversary of the World Education Forum, and the deadline for achieving its ambitious educational targets set to expire, it is instructive to take a retrospective look at events unfolding in Dakar and what we might learn from this experience today. To what extent were the right foundations and instruments put in place at Dakar? How plausible were the assumptions linking these foundations and the results that were to be achieved? Were the directions clear and the tools appropriate? Did each partner live up to the commitments made at the time?

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Posted in Basic education, Developed countries, Developing countries, Millennium Development Goals, Post-2015 development framework | 7 Comments

Youth is more than the theme of the day; it’s the theme of the decade

On International Youth Day, this blog looks at the continued importance of keeping the spotlight on better skills development for young people.

2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, Youth and Skills: Putting Education to Work

The 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report: “Youth and Skills: Putting Education to Work”

In 2012, the Education for All Global Monitoring Report analysed the youth skills gap and reported that it had reached new highs in the wake of an extended global financial downturn. According to this specially themed  Report, Putting Education to Work, 200 million young people had not completed primary school and lacked skills for work. This International Youth Day we must revisit this theme; it’s as relevant today as it was two years ago.

As International Labour Office (ILO) phrased it in their recent report on youth employment, ‘it’s not easy to be young and in the labour market today’. Reaching record levels, as many as 73 million young people worldwide were estimated to be unemployed in 2013. In addition to being unemployed, as detailed in our 2012 Report, over a quarter of young people are trapped in jobs that keep them on or below the poverty line. Deleterious patterns of high youth unemployment and underemployment, as well as a mismatch in skills for decent work are among the long term effects of the economic crisis, which continue to be seen in many parts of the world.

The number of young people experiencing the impact Captureof slow economic growth is at an all-time high. Currently, they make up 18% of the population in developing countries; and constitute 12% of the population in developed countries. Large demographic bulges in the youth population  are especially acute in the least developed countries. These patterns create an enormous demand for secondary education and relevant skill training. Given the stall in the reduction of out of school children in sub-Saharan Africa, as our latest paper with UIS showed, even more young people will enter the labour market without basic skills, and left ill-equipped to find secure, well-paid work.
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Posted in Developing countries, Economic growth, Employment, Equality, Equity, Literacy, Out-of-school children, Primary school, Quality of education, Secondary school, Skills, Youth | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Achieving equity through finance: helping Indigenous populations in Brazil

On the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, this blog outlines successful policies in Latin America that have helped redistribute funds to help bring about equity in education, and benefit its indigenous populations.

scales_pinkTo achieve Education for All, it is necessary not only to increase domestic resources for education but also to redistribute these resources equitably so that a fair share reaches marginalized groups. More often, however, resources are skewed towards the most privileged.

To shift education spending in favour of the marginalized, some governments have introduced compensatory funding formula, which allocate more resources to locales, communities or schools that are in need of greater support, such as indigenous populations. This can help overcome educational deprivation and socio-economic inequality.

Brazil weighs its national spending in order to tackle widespread education inequality between states; inequality that affects its indigenous populations the most. In the poorer northern Amazonian states, for instance, income is less than half the level in the richer southern states, so tax revenue and spending per pupil are significantly lower.

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Posted in Equality, Ethnicity, Language, Latin America, Marginalization, Rural areas, Teachers | 1 Comment

Women’s education helps avert child marriage

This week, a Girl Summit is being held in London, aimed at rallying efforts to end female genital mutilation and child marriage within a generation. This blog looks at the vital role that education plays in helping reduce child marriages and the child pregnancies that often occur as a result.

Around 2.9 million girls are married by the age of 15 in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, equivalent to one in eight girls in each region, according to estimates in the 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report. These shocking statistics mean millions of girls are robbed of their childhood and denied an education.

Our Report also showed, without a doubt, that ensuring that girls stay in school is one of the most effective ways to prevent child marriage.


Click to enlarge

Education empowers women to overcome discrimination. Girls and young women who are educated have greater awareness of their rights, and greater confidence and freedom to make decisions that affect their lives.

If all girls completed primary school in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, the number of girls getting married by age 15 would fall by 14%; with secondary education, 64% fewer girls would get married. In Ethiopia, for example, while almost one in three young women with no education were married by the age of 15 in 2011, only 9% were married among women with secondary education.

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Posted in Developing countries, Equality, Gender, Out-of-school children, Poverty | 4 Comments