Lessons from Dakar

dakar_retrospective6This blog introduces a new series that will take a retrospective view of the Education for All agenda and its subsequent implementation.  As we reach the 500 day countdown until the end of 2015, this series creates a space for reflection and offer lessons learnt from those present at the World Economic Forum in Dakar in 2000 for those setting new global education goals today.

People often assert that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. However, nobody would want to spurn a chance to hear from people who lived through transformative events in the past, which are relevant today. With this in mind, the GMR team approached a number of people who were present at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, in April 2000 and asked them to pen their reflections.

CaptureAt the time, the education community was seeking to breathe fresh life into a process that seemed to have stalled during the decade following the 1990 Jomtien World Conference on Education for All. The Dakar Framework for Action set forth an agreement with six goals to be achieved by 2015 and a set of strategies that would help global, regional and national partners reach these targets.

With 500 days to go until the 15th anniversary of the World Education Forum, and the deadline for achieving its ambitious educational targets set to expire, it is instructive to take a retrospective look at events unfolding in Dakar and what we might learn from this experience today. To what extent were the right foundations and instruments put in place at Dakar? How plausible were the assumptions linking these foundations and the results that were to be achieved? Were the directions clear and the tools appropriate? Did each partner live up to the commitments made at the time?

Since 2002, the EFA Global Monitoring Report has provided an evidence base to measure and assess national and regional progress in education. As we prepare the 2015 Report, due out late next spring, we are re-examining the evidence to find out which achievements have been directly influenced by the Dakar agreement and its aftermath. We are also asking ourselves what things might have been done differently and why?Capture

In order to respond to these questions, and others, we have asked ‘witnesses’ of Dakar, who at the time represented the EFA convening agencies, key NGOs, and donors, to dig into their memories and reflect on their experiences. Over the next months, these guest bloggers will help re-create the context of those days leading up to, during, and following the Dakar Conference. They will assess the preparation and support surrounding the conference as well as the leadership shaping the agenda at the time.  They will reflect upon the balance between pragmatism and ambition and between substance and politics. They will analyse the influence of those who aspired to hold governments and agencies to account. With the benefit of hindsight, and with the hope of reaching the ears of those setting new post 2015 education agendas, we asked the Dakar ‘witnesses’ to consider what they would have done differently.

The holistic approach of the Education for All declarations and frameworks established at Dakar was soon to be challenged by the more selective and utilitarian approach of the Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Summit in September 2000 set forth a narrower agenda of education targets based on universal primary education, which gained traction in many contexts. Today, by contrast, preparations for the post-2015 education agenda are significantly different: education is an integrated component of a global development agenda. Attention is now focused on ensuring that the education goal and targets outlined in the proposal of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals and to be agreed in September 2015 will retain the broad scope and vision of Dakar. As post-2015 discussions pick up speed, this series will look at which experiences from Dakar can help ensure that a broad and comprehensive view of education takes root.

Were you at Dakar too? Join us in the coming weeks on this blog with your memories and key lessons learnt. It’s time to reflect!

– Read all the blogs in this series so far, by David ArcherMaris O’Rourke, Clinton Robinson, Abhimanyu SinghBirger FredriksonSheldon Schaeffer, Svein Osttveit and Cream Wright



  1. “Basic Education”- Most sub Sahara countries are in the Track for global educational goal, here and then evaluation is required on quality of education provided, this is because the buildings are not the only identification. Let us check on the content and the applicability of education in fighting against poverty.This is because Education has been proved to be a weapon to fight against poverty.

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