Education is at the heart of a vast worldwide mobilisation to demand action to end poverty.
Key dates for decision will be: * The G8 Summit in Scotland, 6-8 July 2005 * The UN Millennium Review Summit, New York, 14-16 September The G8 Summit At the G8 Summit, the host government of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair will press the leaders of the other major economies to take action to finance the UN’s Eight Millennium Development Goals including Education for All and Gender Equity. Blair wants to place special focus on Africa. Hundreds of civil society organisations around the world, including Global Unions, are mobilising millions of people through the Global Call to Action Against Poverty: G-CAP 2005. In the G8 host country, EI's UK affiliates called on members to join tens of thousands in Edinburgh on 2 July (www.makepovertyhistory.org). They will be the on-site representatives of millions around the globe. The symbol linking them is a simple white band – the symbol of G-CAP 2005. Wear the white band to show that you demand trade justice, debt cancellation and more and better aid to developing countries. UN Millennium Review EI members know that in September 2000 governments around the world signed up to the Eight Millennium Development Goals (www.un.org/millenniumgoals). The goals promise action to lift millions of people out of desperate poverty and include: * Ensure that all boys and girls complete primary school by 2015. * Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015. EI's Worlds of Education has reported previously that the gender equity goal set for 2005 has been achieved in some countries, but others have fallen short. Too many countries are falling behind their Education for All program and as a consequence the 2015 targets are at risk (see www.campaignforeducation.org). By the time World Leaders meet at the UN in September, there must be clear decision to fund EFA and firm political will to achieve the goals. The burden of foreign debt One of the big issues is the need to reduce the debt burden of developing countries, and to eliminate debt altogether for the poorest. In February, the G7 Finance Ministers (the G8 without Russia) said they would cancel debt for the poorest countries. Only five of the key countries have taken steps to implement that decision (Japan and the US have not done so). More and better aid for developing countries Last year, the Presidents of Spain, Brazil, France and Chile called for a Global Fund Against Hunger and Poverty. They mandated work on innovative funding to improve the flow of resources to developing countries. They included the UK’s proposal for an International Finance Facility, and a tax on international financial transfers (the Tobin Tax) supported by France and Canada. But at the World Bank and IMF meetings in April, there was no agreement on which idea to support. Only a handful of countries have so far achieved the target of 0.7% of GDP for Official Development Assistance. Fair Trade Fair world trade is also a key part of the picture. The World Trade Organisation will meet again in Hong Kong in December. EI will be there with Global Unions. All these issues – debt relief, more and better aid, and fair trade – were addressed by the EI Executive Board at its meeting in April. The conclusions: the pressure for action is building. After five years, the Global Campaign for Education is changing perceptions everywhere. It is having an impact. Political leaders now recognize that something has to be done. But there are too many proposals on the table, and political leaders still cannot agree on which ones to support. Some of the leading world economies continue to drag their feet, and put self-interest first. And there is ideological opposition in some countries to any official aid or joining in multilateral action against poverty. Political will remains the determinant factor. The events of July to December 2005 present both opportunity and risk. There is an opportunity for leaders to take decisions to achieve a breakthrough in the battle against poverty. The risk is failure to agree, failure to decide, more rhetoric, and no action. People can make the difference. Join the mobilisation in your country!