On 14 February, the Sixth E-9 Ministerial Review Meeting being held over two days in Monterrey, Mexico, was opened by Mr Vincente Fox Quesada, President of Mexico, and Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO. The Ministerial Review Meeting, organized by UNESCO with the cooperation of the Government of Mexico, is a biennial event aimed at promoting cooperation among the nine high-population countries: Brazil, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan. The opening ceremony also included introductory remarks from the State Councilor of China, Mrs Chen Zhili, Mr Reyes Tamez Guerra, Minister of Education of Mexico and Mr Natividad Gonzalez Paras, Governor of the State of Nuevo Leon.
The E-9 Initiative was launched in 1993 in New Delhi to accelerate and strengthen the EFA-related efforts of these very large developing countries. Thematic issues addressed in recent E-9 Ministerial Review Meetings have been the use of ICTs in education (Beijing, China, 2001) and early childhood care and education (Cairo, Egypt, 2003). The selected theme of the Ministerial Review Meeting in Monterrey is national policies and systems for the assessment of the quality of education, which was also examined in a one-day Expert Meeting on 13 February.
Since the Cairo meeting, which brought a revitalization of the E-9 Initiative, several follow-up actions have served to strengthen collaboration, including the establishment of a rotating secretariat, housed in one of the E-9 ministries and supported by the local UNESCO office; the designation by each country of an E-9 focal point to facilitate liaison; and the organization of meetings for ministers, officials and experts in parallel with major EFA events, such as the High-Level Group and the Working Group. “The collective enthusiasm of the E-9 countries and a heightened sense of esprit de corps give a basis for fruitful discussions and for practical, useful results as outcomes from this meeting”, said the Director-General. He added: “I hardly need emphasize that the progress of E-9 countries towards the Dakar goals will determine in no small measure whether or not they are achieved”.
In addition to the theme of assessing the quality of education, the Monterrey meeting is addressing other issues of interest and concern to the E-9 countries, notably the pace of EFA progress in the perspective of recent EFA Global Monitoring Reports; the mobilization of resources; and the further development of South-South cooperation not only among E-9 countries but also to the benefit of other developing countries: “We will examine the possibilities of further developing South-South cooperation through mechanisms which enable the E-9 countries to offer their expertise and support to other developing countries – harnessing their demonstrable strengths for the common good,” said the Director-General.
In closing, the Director-General called for “frank discussions of what needs to be done” and for “greater collaboration in the pursuit of EFA, without which neither the Millennium Development Goals nor the broader vision of sustainable human development can be achieved. Your commitment as political leaders is crucial to this goal”, he told the Ministers of Education of the E-9 countries.
Immediately after the opening ceremony, the Director-General held bilateral talks with President Fox and with the Governor of the State of Nuevo Leon concerning the Universal Forum of Cultures, which Monterrey will host in 2007.
The E-9 Ministerial Review Meeting will conclude on 15 February with the adoption of the Monterrey Communiqué.