United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
South Asian countries call on G-8 to deliver promised education aid

Paris – Education ministers from the countries of South Asia have called on the governments of the G-8, due to meet in Evian (France) next week, to accelerate the delivery of promised financial aid to achieve the goal of Education For All (EFA) by 2015. They have also urged governments in the region to progressively increase their education spending to “a minimum of four percent of GDP”.

Meeting in Islamabad from May 21-23 under the auspices of the Government of Pakistan and UNESCO, education ministers and high-level delegations from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, also reiterated their commitment to bridging the gender gap by 2005.

In a Declaration adopted at the end of the meeting the participants pointed to numerous achievements made throughout the region since the World Education Forum (Dakar, Senegal, 2000), but stressed that quality improvement, gender parity and resource mobilization remained the “most serious challenges to achieve EFA by 2015.”

Recognizing that “education is the most critical lever for alleviating poverty, empowering people, and to ensure peace, solidarity and prosperity”, they committed themselves to providing “free, inclusive, gender responsive quality basic education for all including all marginalized and vulnerable groups.” They also pledged to “promote adult literacy in general and especially for women in the context of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012) and in the spirit of the Dakar Declaration.”

The countries of South Asia are home to some 46 percent or about 400 million of the world’s 861 million illiterate adults. More than 380 million of these people live in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan alone. Some 43 million primary age children don’t go to school, over half of them girls, and half of the children who do enroll in Grade-1 drop out before completing their primary education (Grade-5).

“There is no alternative to Education For All if your goal is to wipe out poverty and become a devloped nation,” UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, John Daniel told the meeting. “For several decades we have looked for short cuts to development. Today […] we know from experience that there are no quick fixes. The only reliable springboard to national development is to get the kids through school and the adults reading.”

The full text of the Islamabad declaration is online at: www.unesco.org/education

Source Press Release No 2003 - 31
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Editorial Contact: Sue Williams, Bureau of Public Information, Editorial Section. Tel: +33(0)1 45 68 17 06
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Publication Date 27 May 2003
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