The meeting was co-chaired by Mr Matsuura and the Egyptian Minister of Education, Mr Yousri El Gammal.
The High-Level Group meeting is an important annual event in the EFA calendar, and this year was attended by 22 Ministers of Education as well as senior representatives of donor governments, multilateral agencies, non-governmental agencies and the private sector. In his address at the opening ceremony, held on 14 November in the presence of the Prime Minister of Egypt, Mr Ahmed Mohamed Nazif, the Director-General focused on four key developments that have taken place in EFA over the past year.
The first was the holding of the 6th E-9 Ministerial Review Meeting in February in Monterrey, Mexico, which demonstrated the increasing capacity and willingness of the E-9 countries, not only to tackle their own EFA challenges, but also to share their growing experience and expertise with other developing counties. The success of E-9 countries is indispensable for achieving EFA.
The second development was the growing cooperation among the five EFA convening agencies in support of the EFA Global Action Plan. Progress has been made to refine the Plan, to build greater joint ownership of it, and to move towards its application at the country level.
Third, the Director-General referred to the G8 Summit in St Petersburg, Russia, in July, where education was high on the agenda. G8 leaders leant particular support to EFA, welcoming the Global Action Plan as an effective means of strengthening multilateral support to country efforts to achieve the Dakar goals. And finally, Mr Matsuura signaled the importance of the Singapore meetings of the Development Committee of the World Bank and the IMF in September, which drew attention to the critical importance of meeting the UN target of 0.7% of gross national income for overseas development assistance. The Development Committee highlighted the EFA-Fast Track Initiative (FTI) as an important mechanism for scaling up aid to basic education.
In his inaugural address, the Director-General also drew attention to UN reform and in particular to the implications of the Report of the High-Level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence for EFA efforts at the country level. Mr Matsuura insisted that "with the move towards a unified UN country programme, it is vital that we act together to ensure that key sectoral issues for development – like education – are adequately taken into account".
The Director-General concluded that the High-Level Group was meeting this year at a time of great change, great challenge and great possibility. He underlined, "we must work together to shape this environment in ways that enable us all to devote our best efforts to the task at hand – opening up new and real opportunities for quality basic education to those who are still without them".
In its working sessions on 15 and 16 November, the High-Level Group addressed the following issues: how to accelerate progress towards the EFA goals; policies and strategies to expand early childhood care and education (ECCE); comprehensive education sector responses to HIV and AIDS; resource mobilization and aid effectiveness; and partnership in the context of the EFA Global Action Plan. Discussions were informed by the 2007 EFA Global Monitoring Report, whose special theme this year was ECCE (see Flash Info n°169-2006).
The Director-General chaired the closing session of the High-Level Group, devoted to the adoption of the Communiqué. The Communiqué was drafted during the meeting by a "Sherpa Group". The final text, adopted unanimously by the High-Level Group, sends a powerful message on the international community's willingness to work together, at the highest level, to achieve Education for All. It recognizes education as key to achieving international development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The High-Level Group further welcomed the invitation of the government of Senegal to host the next High-Level Group meeting on EFA, on 11-13 December 2007. Taking place midway towards the target date of 2015, this 7th meeting will focus on an overall review of EFA progress.
Several EFA-related events were held on the margins of the High-Level Group meeting, including the Technical and Global Advisory Committee meetings of the United Nation Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI) and the fourth partnership meeting of the EFA Fast Track Initiative. The Director-General welcomed the decision to hold both of these meetings prior to the High-Level Group, noting that their deliberations could now feed more effectively into the Group's discussions.
Mr Matsuura himself had addressed the closing session of the FTI partnership meeting, on the afternoon of 14 November. Here, he had applauded the FTI as "one of the key post-Dakar developments". Describing the initiative as a good example of donor harmonization and alignment with country-led development processes, in accordance with the Paris Declaration, the Director-General argued that FTI cooperation would be vital to efforts to implement the Global Action Plan at country level. He also noted, however, that the FTI focused on the primary education goal of EFA and the second Millennium Development Goal. "Since FTI does not seek to mobilize resources for all parts of the EFA agenda, other channels and mechanisms of financing will need to be found", Mr Matsuura said, urging national and international stakeholders to address the financial requirements of the other EFA goals.
On 14 November, the Director-General hosted a working lunch for the Ministers of Education of the high-population E-9 countries, to discuss plans for the next E-9 Ministerial Review Meeting, to be held in Bali, Indonesia, in March 2008. It was agreed that this 7th E-9 meeting would focus on teacher education and training, in the context of improving the quality of education. Other issues that will be addressed include South-South cooperation and sharing good practices between E-9 countries and other developing countries.
Author(s): Office of the Spokeswoman - Source: Flash Info N° 181-2006 - Publication Date: 16-11-2006