Post 2015: The UN General Assembly has told us what, now we need to define how

The roadmap for the international development agenda after 2015 was approved yesterday at a special event at the UN General Assembly. The UN Secretary-General said that the post‐2015 framework “must be bold in ambition yet simple in design, supported by a new partnership for development”. Here we review whether the vision outlined in the outcome document will achieve the bold ambitions being discussed for new education goals, and provide suggestions for where we need to go from here.

The outcome document released after the special event on the Millennium Development Goals in New York celebrated progress made so far, but lamented the distance still to travel for many countries and disadvantaged groups before many goals could be met. The document also contained a vision for new goals that will be formalized for the post-2015 agenda. It paid attention to ‘what’ needs addressing; if we want to have greater success with new goals than with the MDGs, we must now urgently turn our attention to ‘how’.

The working group at the special event has carefully merged the two frameworks for a new development agenda that were being suggested by sustainable and millennium development groups. The document also clearly outlines key reasons why there are still 57 million children out of school with less than 850 days to go until 2015. It recognizes that marginalization, poverty and conflict must be addressed head-on in a new agenda to achieve universal primary education and other goals. A day before the document was finalized, there was a successful ‘Education Cannot Wait’ event at the UN General Assembly highlighting our figures that half of out-of-school children live in conflict-affected countries, and that this proportion has been rising. It is reassuring that practically a full paragraph is devoted to the particular challenges of achieving progress in the MDGs in countries affected by humanitarian emergencies in the outcome document.

As leaders look at defining new goals, we now need to work out how to address these ongoing injustices. It is not news that the marginalized have been unable to benefit from progress in development goals. We have all been campaigning to ensure that girls, in particular, have their needs addressed in policies to ensure that they can break down the barriers denying them their rights.

The Education for All Goals had references to equity in their language, but fell short in terms of how equity would be measured. Our World Inequality Database on Education(WIDE) shows how stark these inequalities in education remain as a result. After 2015, new goals must put equity at the centre, with measurable disaggregated data, ensuring they deliver Education for All, and not just for some.

Addressing the challenges presented by conflict, poverty and gender disadvantages highlighted in the document will also need resources. It is therefore welcome to see that the document reiterates the commitment to devote 0.7% of gross national income to official development assistance by 2015.

Our February policy paper showed that if the European donors who had committed to the 0.7% target kept their promise, it would add US$1.3 billion to the resources available for basic education. Currently, however, education faces an annual financing gap of $26 billion a year for basic education, or $38 billion a year if new goals extend to include lower secondary education. So even this additional $1.3 billion, if delivered, is by no means sufficient. Hence we also call strongly for better accountability in the new framework, with financing targets set for both governments and donors, and we are concerned that this did not come through yesterday’s outcome document.

We hope you will help us spread the message that measurability and adequate financing are essential if we are not to repeat the same mistakes after 2015.


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