The EFA Initiative
In February 1989, the executive heads of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the World Bank agreed to convene jointly and sponsor the World Conference on Education for All - Meeting Basic Learning Needs (now widely known by its acronym, WCEFA). Scheduled early in International Literacy Year (ILY 1990), the Conference was intended to launch a renewed worldwide initiative to meet the basic learning needs of all children, youth and adults, and to reverse the serious decline in basic education services observed in many countries during recent years.
The four sponsoring agencies established and funded an Inter-Agency Commission (IAC), with an Executive Committee representing the four and a small Executive Secretariat, hosted by UNICEF at its headquarters in New York, to prepare and organize the Conference. The Royal Government of Thailand kindly agreed to host the conference at Jomtien, from 5-9 March 1990. As the initiative became known, eighteen governments and organizations joined in supporting it as co-sponsors and associate sponsors by contributing financial, material and intellectual support. (See inside front cover.)
In order to mobilize support and to consult with governments, major nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and other interested parties in countries around the world prior to the Conference, the IAC Executive Secretariat undertook to organize, with the valuable cooperation of the field offices of the four core Sponsors and regional planning task forces, a series of nine regional consultations, as well as a consultation of major funding agencies (see the calendar of these consultations: Box 1.1). The IAC also established an International Steering Group, comprising members nominated by the various sponsors, together with a number of distinguished individuals from each region of the world (see Annex F); this advisory body met once prior to the regional consultations, a second time immediately afterwards, and twice at Jomtien, before and after the Conference.
While each consultation had its own agenda and programme, they all examined the draft text (Draft B) of two working documents, the World Declaration on Education for All (originally entitled "World Charter...") and the Framework for Action to Meet Basic Learning Needs. (The Jakarta Consultation reviewed Draft C). Each consultation formulated comments and suggestions for their revision, and the Executive Secretariat met with the rapporteurs to obtain their advice on the perspectives and major concerns of all the regions that needed to be reflected in Draft C, which was then submitted to the World Conference for final examination and adoption. (See Appendices 1 and 2 for the texts of these two complementary documents as adopted by the Conference.)
Furthermore, many countries established national committees or task forces during 1989, often with the active participation of NGOs, to design or update a national strategy to develop basic education and to prepare for the ILY and WCEFA. A large number of international and regional NGOs were also active in the consultation process, commented on the working documents and helped the IAC to raise awareness of the issues involved in the Education for All initiative. This partnership of governmental authorities, intergovernmental agencies, and nongovernmental organizations is a very significant characteristic of the Education for All initiative.
Although this initiative was initially focussed on the World Conference, there was unanimous agreement in Jomtien that the initiative must continue far beyond the Conference, until the basic learning needs of all children, youth and adults are effectively met in all countries of the world.
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