G8 and G20 Meetings Fail To Deliver On Education

published 2 July 2010 updated 22 March 2011

The G8 and G20 meetings held last week in Muskoka and Toronto, Canada, were marked by political division and a lack of decisions. Significantly, while world leaders had earlier identified education and training as an important element of post-crisis recovery, they did not manage to take the necessary steps forward.

The G8 declaration (see http://g8.gc.ca/g8-summit/summit-documents/g8-muskoka-declaration-recovery-and-new-beginnings/) focuses on development, food security, climate change, trade and investment, and international peace and security. It makes several pledges on health, by launching the ‘Muskoka Initiative’ - an increase in global funding for progress on the 4th Millennium Development Goal on child mortality and the 5th MDG on maternal health. It supports replenishment of the Global Fund to Fights AIDS, TB and Malaria. Yet, unlike the 2009 G8 in L’Aquila, Italy, the declaration does not mention any initiative for education, which is a central element of the Millennium Development Goals. Concretely, it does not make any reference to the need to improve funding for Education For All ( http://www.unesco.org/en/efa) or the related 2nd MDG on universal primary education and the 3rd MDG on gender equality. As the meeting took place during the FIFA World Cup, it is all the more surprising that no reference was made to the ‘One-Goal Campaign’ ( http://www.join1goal.org/) widely supported by G8 leaders.

The G8 has, however continued the accountability process on commitments for funding of the MDGs, as proposed by Global Unions, with a reference to EFA in an annex:


At the Kananaskis Summit, the G8 led efforts to create the Education for All – Fast Track Initiative – a global partnership designed to accelerate the achievement of goals and increase aid effectiveness in education. Today, the G8 is supporting reform of the Fast Track Initiative, reform that will promote a more effective, results-oriented partnership. G8 actions have contributed to significant gains in education, including an increase in the number of students receiving primary and secondary education. Challenges remain, particularly in parts of Africa, where the global financial crisis has had a particularly adverse impact upon education financing. Link: http://g8.gc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/mar_annex56.pdf

The G20 declaration (see http://g20.org/Documents/g20_declaration_en.pdf) addresses the need to return to growth, reform the financial sector, strengthening of international financial institutions (IFI’s) and fight protectionism. The education sector should be worried about the announcement of austerity measures in the declaration, as it calls on advanced countries to halve their deficits by 2013. EI is equally worried about the issues that are not mentioned in the final conclusions of the Summit. While the Pittsburgh G20 Summit held in September 2009 and the ensuing G20 Meeting of Labor and Employment Ministers held in April 2010 called on world leaders to adopt a strategy on education and training, the declaration adopted last week does not mention any concrete steps to implement such a strategy. An annex to the Declaration simply states:“We appreciate the work done by the International Labour Organization in collaboration with the OECD on a training strategy that will help equip the workforce with the skills required for the jobs of today and those of tomorrow.”(Annex 1, para 14). This lack of progress implies a growing political divide between world leaders. They are increasingly unable to take the decisions needed to lead our countries out of the global recession.

In the coming months, EI will focus its attention on the next G20 meeting in Seoul, South Korea, that will take place from 11-12 November 2010. The Korean hosts have proposed to put education on the agenda and should invite UNESCO to make a prominent contribution. We will build the EI campaign towards the Seoul Summit, as it will take place after a number of conferences addressing education, such as the Global Summit on EFA (July 2010) and the global MDG Summit at UN Headquarters (September 2010). The lesson to learn from Canada is that if we want to overcome political divisions over the importance of education for post-crisis recovery, we will need to become an even stronger voice to our governments.

For more information about EI’s campaign on the financial crisis, see our website http://www.ei-ie.org/handsup.

See also the blog by Bob Harris on the Global Unions’ meeting with Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper: http://fundingeducation.blogspot.com/2010/07/g20-shrinking-agenda-how-canadian-host.html.