|The Challenge of Universal Primary Education - Strategies for Achieving the International Development Targets (DFID, 2001, 49 p.)|
This paper is one of a set. Together, they spell out actions which could transform the lives of hundreds of millions of poor people and make the planet a better and safer place for our children and grandchildren. They say what needs to be done to achieve key targets for international development.
These International Development Targets have been agreed by the entire United Nations membership, following a series of summit meetings held by the UN and its specialised agencies over the past ten years or so. The meetings discussed progress in poverty reduction and sustainable development and set targets for measuring that progress.
In the past, targets have often been set and then disregarded. This time, however, the international community is giving them greater weight. In 1996, all the main Western development partner countries, grouped together in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) committed themselves to a partnership with developing countries and countries in transition from centrally planned economies. The success of this partnership would be measured against key targets from the UN summits. In the following year, the new UK Government made these targets the centrepiece of its 1997 White Paper on International Development. More recently the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) decided to co-ordinate their development efforts behind the targets. These targets are listed on the inside front cover.
Neither the United Kingdom nor any other individual development partner country can achieve the targets alone. The targets are challenging, some particularly so. But if, by working together, we can increase the effectiveness of the international community, our assessment is that these targets are achievable for developing and transition countries, as a group, by the target date, or soon after in some cases, even though they may not be achieved in each region or country individually. It is clear that each developing country must lead the effort if the targets are to be achieved. If this commitment is lacking, civil society institutions need to press their governments to take action, as without a local lead, progress cannot be achieved. The international community, in turn, must provide support for those governments committed to the reforms which are necessary to achieve the targets. Most countries should be able to register very considerable progress towards meeting the targets by the due dates.
This paper is about education. It identifies the challenges set by the two international targets of Universal Primary Education by 2015 and progress towards gender equality in primary and secondary schooling by 2005. The paper examines the key lessons which can be drawn from recent experience on what has worked well in countries which have made substantive progress towards Universal Primary Education. It concludes that the International Development Targets for education can be achieved where there exists enough political will in national governments to make the necessary policy and resource commitments, matched by strategic support from the international community.
Targets need to be used intelligently. They cannot capture the full richness and complexity of individual and collective transformation that makes for sustainable development. Individual countries should select and debate in normal democratic ways their own measures of achievement. But regular public assessment of how countries as a group and by region are performing against a simple standard is essential, in order to focus development assistance on achieving real outputs. Doing so will show what works and what does not, will provide accountability for the efforts being made in the name of development, and will give impetus to extending basic life opportunities that should be available to all.
Targets also need to be grounded in reality. For this, we should not underestimate the value of good statistics. The political debate in Britain was strongly influenced by 19th and early 20th century surveys documenting the reality of grinding poverty in our own society. A similar effort of political will is needed in many developing and transition countries if they are to give sufficient emphasis to the needs of their own poor people. Better quality and more accessible information on peoples standards of living is one essential element in creating that will. Much work is needed to improve the collection of reliable and comparable data, and to strengthen local statistical capacity.
These papers do not attempt to provide detailed plans; they will follow, country by country and institution by institution, from discussions with developing countries and with the relevant institutions. Many detailed proposals for action in pursuit of the targets are published, or soon will be, as Country and Institutional Strategy Papers. Our bilateral programmes are being reshaped. We are also encouraging the multilateral development institutions in the same direction. One example of this is the policy of the International Development Association - the concessional lending arm of the World Bank - which, following its Twelfth Replenishment, now focuses on poverty elimination in the context of the International Development Targets. Another example is the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Debt Initiative, agreed at the IMF and World Bank in September 1999, which has started to deliver faster, deeper and broader debt relief to countries committed to eradicating poverty. The G8 Summit in Okinawa endorsed the targets and asked for annual reports on progress.
We must also take advantage of the increased wealth being generated by globalisation, to help achieve the International Development Targets. The UK Government has just published a second White Paper on International Development, focusing on managing the process of globalisation to the benefit of poor people.
This paper and the others in the collection assess the challenge and set out an overall approach and strategy for our involvement in achieving the development targets in a clear, focused and realistic way. Each reflects a process of consultation in the United Kingdom and overseas.
I hope that you will find them a valuable statement of what the UK Government will do and how the United Kingdom seeks to use its influence to make a reality of the targets, to which we and the rest of the United Nations membership are committed. We stand ready to be judged against our delivery of this strategy. And the whole development community - governments, international agencies, civil society organisations - should be judged collectively against delivery of the targets.
Secretary of State for International Development