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Education, Fast Track or Back Track?

A worldwide initiative aimed at getting every child in school by 2015 will be missed by a wide margin unless it has the full political and financial backing of donors, ActionAid said in a report titled 'Fast Track or Back Track', presented at the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings, which began on 13 April.

And missing that target would have grave consequences for a broader poverty reduction agenda called the Monterrey Consensus that was agreed at the International Conference on Financing for Development, held in Monterrey, Mexico, in March 2002, the NGO said.

“The FTI [Education Fast Track Initiative] has reached its limit in terms of what can be achieved without additional donor resources and far-reaching changes in how aid is planned and delivered,” ActionAid’s UK Education Policy Adviser Patrick Watt said.

A UN official said that by bringing together ECOSOC, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization under a more formal mandate, the Spring Meeting aimed to take stock of and to maintain the political momentum for implementing the Monterrey Consensus, which came out of the Conference.

ActionAid hoped that the report would make a constructive contribution to the discussions, and that it would spur the Development Committee into concrete actions towards fulfilling the promise of quality basic education for every child by 2015.

The Education FTI, considered to be one of the most achievable objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), committed the international community to mobilising the necessary financial and political resources to provide every child with a free, quality basic education by 2015. As part of the process, developing countries agreed to the development and implementation of Educational Fast Track planning strategies. ActionAid’s report examined and compiled civil society research on the early stages of Education FTI implementation from five Fast Track countries - Guinea, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Bolivia.

Encouragingly, Watt said, the research showed that the Education FTIs had made some early progress in terms of making sector planning more focused, and creating pressure for reform. However, he cautioned that the report also showed that early gains were unsustainable unless the quality of the FTI process improved dramatically, and donors delivered on their funding pledges and undertook far-reaching changes in how they plan and deliver aid.

ActionAid, said Watt, believes the Education FTI to be the best opportunity in a generation to accelerate progress towards the education Millennium Development Goals. If the FTI fails, not only will this progress be jeopardised but it will also seriously damage the credibility of the Monterrey Consensus itself.

If the international community is serious about addressing the education crisis in the world’s poorest countries then action is required in four areas as identified by the report.

First, a genuine partnership for education between governments and donors, including strong education plans backed by the political will to implement them.

Secondly, more financial backing, not words, is needed to implement Education FTIs. An additional $430 million is needed immediately to kick-start implementation in the seven countries whose proposals were approved in November. Without this additional donor funding these plans cannot be implemented and the FTI will fall at the first hurdle. Donors must also agree on a timetable for financing the other eleven FTI plans.

Thirdly, the report calls for a clearly defined financing framework that enables donors and governments to systematically develop, fund and monitor national educational plans.

And fourthly, a timetable for expansion beyond the initial group of 18 countries is also needed in view of opening the initiative to all countries with full Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs).

The full report can be downloaded from the web at www.actionaid.org/resources/pdfs/fasttrack.pdf PDF Format

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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