UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura made an appeal today at the G8 Summit in St Petersburg (Russian Federation) for more support from the international community to fill the financial gap so that developing countries, particularly in Africa, can achieve key basic education goals. In his statement, the Director-General expressed his agreement with the remarks of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair concerning the importance of partnership for Africa, including support for the African Union’s Second Decade of Education for Africa. Mr Matsuura also referred to UNESCO’s contribution to the preparation of the African Union Summit in Khartoum, Sudan, in January 2006, which had focused on education and culture. He noted that the UK’s Commission for Africa set up by Prime Minister Blair had also identified culture as one of the key pillars of development in addition to education. The Director-General said that UNESCO would again support the organization of the African Union Summit in January 2007, when the focus will be upon science and technology, which are crucial themes for the development of Africa.
The Director-General also spoke on education, stressing that access to good quality basic education for all children is vital for Africa and its development. “There are over 100 million children out of school in the world today, around 18% of the total of school-age children. However, it is very serious in sub-Saharan Africa: almost 50% of primary school-age children in West and Central Africa are out of school and more than one-third in Eastern and Southern Africa.” The G8 declaration rightly says that education is at the heart of human progress, he said, adding that it is also about nation-building, development and poverty reduction.
On the question of aid to education, the UNESCO Director-General stressed that developing countries first must do their utmost to mobilize domestic resources, but more external help is needed if they are to achieve the six Education for All (EFA) goals by 2015. It is estimated that external aid to basic education needs to reach $ 12 billion annually. He acknowledged that aid to basic education has increased in recent years but there is still a gap of $7.6 billion.
The Director-General called for the world to stand by its commitments to Africa and appealed for the financial gap facing basic education to be filled globally, but especially for Africa.
In the education document approved on 16 July by the G8 Summit – entitled “Education for innovative societies in the 21st century” – the G8 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the EFA agenda and welcomed “UNESCO’s efforts to finalize a Global Action Plan to achieve the EFA goals and provide a framework for coordinated and complementary action by multilateral aid agencies in support of country-level implementation.” Through this document, the G8 leaders “call upon UNESCO and the additional convening agencies of the Dakar Framework (UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and the World Bank) to support harmonization and alignment with national priorities, plans and targets and to utilize each organization’s unique capacities to eliminate duplication of effort and increase efficiency.” The G8 leaders also signaled their continuing support for an effective implementation of the EFA Fast-Track Initiative (FTI) and reiterated their commitment to support Africa in its achievement of the EFA agenda.
As a follow-up to the summit, the G8 welcomed Italy’s offer to organize in cooperation with UNESCO a World Forum on “Education, Innovation and Research: New Partnership for Sustainable Development.”
In addition, the G8 leaders highlighted the importance of developing modern effective education systems in order to meet the challenges of a global knowledge-based economy. To this end, they resolved “to encourage investment in the ‘knowledge triangle’ – education, including lifelong learning, research and innovation.” The G8 leaders “agreed to cooperate with our development partners and other stakeholders to achieve high quality basic education, literacy and gender equality in accord with the education-related Millennium Development Goals and the objectives of the Education for All programme.”