First meeting of the Working Group on Debt Swaps for Education

On 27 November 2006 the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, addressed the first meeting of the Working Group on Debt Swaps for Education.

The Director-General had been called upon to establish the Working Group by the 33rd Session of UNESCO’s General Conference.

The Working Group was chaired by Mr Daniel Filmus, Minister of Education, Science and Technology of Argentina, and brought together representatives of donor and beneficiary countries, international agencies, regional development banks and civil society. Their role is to gather and reflect on experiences of debt swaps in various fields and countries, in order to guide the development of recommendations for their value and use in the domain of education. The Group will also formulate potential scenarios for the successful implementation of debt swaps, and consider ways of sharing information and experience among countries interested or involved in this innovative financing mechanism.

Mr Matsuura focused in his address on the persistent funding gap for achieving Education for All (EFA). “In many countries domestic spending on education remains insufficient, and in 41 it actually decreased between 1999 and 2004”, the Director-General noted, drawing on the recently published 2007 EFA Global Monitoring Report. “Real progress has been made in boosting external aid to EFA”, he went on, “yet, even if new commitments are met, the expected increase will still leave half of the estimated annual gap of 11 billion US dollars unfulfilled”.

It is therefore clear that donors will need to double their efforts, and that developing countries, too, must increase and sustain their investment in education. However, as the Director-General underlined, “if we are to fill the funding gap, we will in addition need to explore new channels and methods of financing”. Mr Matsuura cited in this regard the Communiqué adopted on 16 November by the EFA High-Level Group at its sixth meeting in Cairo, affirming that “innovative financing mechanisms, including debt swaps, public-private partnerships, and other financing possibilities, should be further developed in feasible and appropriate ways for supporting EFA”.

It is furthermore evident that the issue of funding for EFA needs to be placed in a wider context. In the interest of both national stability and policy sustainability, education and economic development must be discussed together. Mr Matsuura drew attention to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, as providing the framework within which all EFA partners should move forward together. “There needs to be greater donor harmonization, and closer alignment of aid with national strategies and priorities. This in turn must be met with stronger national planning, coordination and leadership”, the Director-General said.

Mr Matsuura informed the Working Group that he would report on its outcomes to the 34th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference, in October 2007, and to the 7th meeting of the High-Level Group, in Dakar, Senegal, in December of next year. The Director-General will make recommendations on the value and usefulness of debt swaps for education and on best practices conducive to their successful implementation. He will also report on other innovative financing mechanisms, over and above the resources made available through debt swaps or traditional forms of domestic and external financing.

In conclusion, the Director-General emphasized the value of exploring such new financing mechanisms, both to donor countries, which are looking for ways to increase their support to countries in need of external assistance in achieving EFA, and for countries with a heavy debt burden, which are seeking to discuss with their external partners alternative means for funding their education plans.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 189-2006
  • 27-11-2006
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