Philip Lowe

The European Union (EU) has become one of the largest donors of development assistance, and this is in addition to the contributions of national governments. The EU itself is keen to develop its own profile and sets its own targets for development cooperation. In 1996, the EU announced its Year of Learning throughout Life, and for us it is important that it should go on directing more of its policy aims and programmes towards lifelong learning. It was good to hear that the EU intends to give priority tí basic education. We shall have to keep reminding it to fulfil this commitment, perhaps through its own programme focusing on Education for All. – Philip Lowe was in Dakar representing the EU as Head of the relevant Directorate General.

Statement


Mr President,
Ministers,
Excellencies,
Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The European Commission acts for, and on behalf of the 15 Member States of the Union in policy areas relevant to the themes and challenges of this World Education Forum. It is responsible for managing about one fifth of all the Official Development Assistance provided by the European Union’s Member States. It has become the fifth largest donor in the World and the largest source of development funding in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Commission negotiates all trade and trade related matters with third countries on behalf of the European Union as a whole. The European Union, through the Commission, has developed comprehensive trade, development and co-operation agreements with many countries, including especially its neighbours in Central and Eastern Europe, New Independent States (of the Caucasus and Central Asia), African, Caribbean and the Pacific countries and those of the Mediterranean, Latin America and Asia.

We therefore contribute to this debate today as an international partner in development alongside our own European Member States, acting in complement to their efforts and of course to the efforts of the United Nations Institutions which have successfully launched the initiative of this Forum. That is an ambitious task when you have as many dynamic women development ministers as we do in Europe!

The European Union places the fight against poverty and the integration of developing countries into the mainstream of the world economy at the centre of its support to sustainable development.

Provision of basic education for all is an indispensable component of the poverty eradication strategies now being formulated. The Commission supports the view that the education sector should be one of the key beneficiaries of debt reduction initiatives.

Like many others, we regard the efforts we have all made so far to contribute to the Jomtien objectives as considerable but still very inadequate.

Much depends on the political commitment of our partner countries themselves. To be successful, support to basic education must also be complemented by action to create income and jobs and to improve health, sanitation and communications. At the same time, progress in education is one of the preconditions for success in these other areas.

With so much to be done in different but interdependent sectors, any individual donor such as the European Commission cannot hope to provide the very best in design and delivery of programmes in every sector. This is one reason why we attach importance to sector-wide programmes led by the governments themselves, in partnership with Civil Society. These programmes can really be owned by the countries themselves. And they can avoid the accumulation of often incompatible demands from individual donors.

Whether we take the lead in negotiating support for such programmes in the education sector or not, we will be ready to support national education action plans which aim at the post-Dakar targets. These plans need to be based on high quality programmes sensitive to problems of access and gender, use of appropriate new information technologies and effective use of resources. The speed at which countries go towards their targets will depend primarily on their own capacities and priorities.

Could I stress to you our view that partnerships in development – and partnerships in education – cannot simply be the affairs of governments and funding agencies. For programmes to be successful, all those affected by them need to be involved in their design and implementation. This is why we want to see local communities, parents, teachers and wider civil society, involved in the programmes we support but in a manner which reflects local conditions and cultures. As Jim Wolfensohn emphasised this morning, this process of involvement is no easy matter. The commitment of national authorities in the process of dialogue with civil society cannot simply be imposed as a condition for funding. The process needs to be owned nationally. Hence there is a need to build institutional capacities to discuss and resolve educational issues. As many of our partner countries tell us, lack of good governance in this area in often due as much to weak governance as to any deliberate frustration of the dialogue with civil society. That being said, we must be firm in our commitment to a genuinely participatory approach to education for all.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The European Commission is in the process of revitalising its development cooperation efforts, to achieve greater visibility and impact and above all to get better results for the countries we are trying to help. Our support to the post-Dakar objectives will benefit from this modernization process. We have the basis for action on education in agreements between the European Union and many countries. For example, the recently concluded ACP-EU partnership agreement to be signed in Suva next month contains clear commitments on basic education. So too do the conclusions of the EU-Africa summit earlier this month.

We will work with the United Nations Organisations, with NGOs, and of course with our partner countries to advocate and promote the objectives laid down by this Forum, and in particular girls’ and women’s education.

We look forward to monitoring with you the progress towards 2015, building on successes and, of course, learning form mistakes too.

European Commission WEF Press Release

1. The Commission supports the Global Action Campaign for Education. The right to education is a fundamental component of strategies to eradicate poverty.

2. The conclusions of the Europe/Africa Summit confirm these commitments for Africa.

3. The recently concluded ACP-EU* partnership agreement adopts basic primary education as a key sector for co-operation, in particular education for girls.

4. The Community will provide support to governments who are committed to the same objectives through its partnership agreements:

  • with ACP countries, there has been a considerable increase of funds in education (from 7 % to 15 %). At the moment, 80 % of the 8th European Development Fund investment in education (at least 400 million Euros) goes to primary education.
  • with countries of the Mediterranean Region
  • with countries of Central and Latin America (162 million Euros in the period 86–98)
  • with the countries of Asia

It already provides substantial funds to support education programmes in developing countries all together (programme aid/structural adjustement 974 million Euros, from which 400 million Euros for education in 1998). Some of the most significant programmes funded by the EU are implemented with Burkina Faso (10 million Euros), Uganda (31 million Euros), Zambia (10 million Euros), India (150 million Euros), Nepal (20.5 million Euros).

5. The Commission believes that the most effective way of giving support to the education sector is through sector-wide programmes, managed by the national authorities themselves, and supported by donors based on maximum effort of complementarity.

6. The partnership with NGOs and civil society is essential for the success of education efforts in every country. Some good examples of co-operation with NGOs are 1) the support programme in favour of(counterpart Caritas and others – 1 million Euros); 2) support to promotion of women and primary education in Kwazulu-Natal-South Africa (counterpart Care – 500,000 Euros); and the programme support to literacy and education in Brazil (500,000 Euros). “enfants en situation difficile au Sénégal” (counterpart Caritas and others – 1 million Euros); 2) support to promotion of women and primary education in Kwazulu-Natal-South Africa (counterpart Care – 500,000 Euros); and the programme support to literacy and education in Brazil (500,000 Euros).

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