Magazine article UNESCO Courier

A Global Campaign

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

A Global Campaign

Article excerpt

Voices are rising up around the world to make governments keep their word on basic education in the years ahead

Enough is enough. Around the world, NGOs are on the campaign trail to pressure governments and donors into keeping the promises they will make at an upcoming international conference on education in Dakar (Senegal) [1].

Their concern: progress since the World Conference on Education for all held at Jomtien (Thailand) in 1990, where governments committed themselves to an expanded vision of education and a set of goals (see box), has fallen short of targets set. "Whereas we emerged from the Cold War and the risks of military conflict decreased compared to the 70s and 80s, we did not use this margin of manoeuvre as we could have. History gave us this opportunity and we did nor take it," says Elie Jouen of Education International, one of the world's largest teachers' organizations and a partner in the campaign.

Spelling out solutions

"We are worried that Dakar is going to turn into another talking shop where everyone reaffirms things already agreed, sets new targets and then, as after Jomtien, goes home, cuts the aid budget and allows debt problems to continue undermining education systems of Third World countries," says Kevin Watkins of Oxfam International, author of a hard-hitting report on education and poverty (see box p. 36). "For these conferences to work, you need to create a public perception that there is a serious problem which people have to tackle. And you have to come up with solutions."

The campaign reflects not only the rising involvement of NGOs in education, but also their emerging role as a watchdog with formidable advocacy tools. And they have realized that to be effective, they have to act in numbers. The founders of the campaign launched last October encompass a broad range of interest groups: Education International, the Global March against Child Labour, and development aid agencies ActionAid and Oxfam. At the grassroots, initiatives from rallies to media campaigns and consultations with ministry officials are being conducted in over 60 countries. Community organizations are working on national reviews to ensure that the voices of civil society groups are heard. More broadly, the campaigners are urging governments to take a hard look at their education strategies and spell out the steps required to meet commitments. …

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