It was very good news that a global meeting this week seems to have made progress in aligning two competing visions for the post-2015 development agenda – one centred on eradicating poverty and the other on sustainable development. But it is worrying that the communiqué from the meeting failed to mention education, which underpins all other development efforts and transforms them into long-term change.
At the meeting, held in Bali, Indonesia, the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda discussed the most neglected of the Millennium Development Goals, “Developing a global partnership for development” (MDG 8), which seems to have been overlooked largely because it lacked specific indicators that could be used to hold leaders to account.
The Bali meeting might have been expected to focus on ways of better measuring progress in global partnerships after 2015. Instead, given the contents of the communiqué, discussions seem to have focused on ways to resolve the false dichotomy that has emerged between the sustainable development framework promoted by the UN Rio+20 conference and one centred on poverty eradication. The communiqué appears to reach a unifying solution: “Our vision is to end extreme poverty in all its forms and to have in place the building blocks of sustained prosperity for all”.
The linking of the two competing agendas is very welcome, particularly as most commentators see a combined people-centred and planet-sensitive development agenda as mutually beneficial. But sustained prosperity for all cannot be built without a good education, whose importance deserved to be mentioned in the meeting’s communiqué. People voting on their post-2015 priorities – whose views were passed on to the meeting in Bali – recognize this, and have so far placed education at the top.
It is very encouraging that the communiqué calls for a “data revolution”, listing as one of its five key areas the need to ensure data availability and better accountability in measuring progress. In line with the EFA Global Monitoring Report’s proposal for education goals, the communiqué reassuringly highlights equity as one of the principles for a renewed global partnership. It identifies the need for improvements in reporting at sub-national levels disaggregated by sex, age, region and other variables (I would specify poverty and disability as key other variables as part of this). The EFA Global Monitoring Report has developed an interactive, user-friendly World Inequality Database on Education (WIDE), which allows tracking of progress for different population groups within countries. With improved data, the approach used in our new database could become even more instrumental in holding policymakers to account for commitments that they make after 2015.
Even with the data available, our WIDE database shows that progress in education for the most disadvantaged groups has been too slow over the past decade. Inequalities in other areas will not be reduced without tackling educational inequalities first, as was clearly explained by Will Paxton from Save the Children in a guest blog on this site. “Education” is a word that the panel appear to have skirted away from in writing their communiqué; instead, it should have been included up-front as a key enabler for the principles it endorses.