This 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.
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.