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Volume 12 Number 1
New Delhi, Spring 2005

A Leap To Equality

- Dr. Doel Mukerjee
Project Coordinator, Police Reforms, CHRI

The Fourth Meeting of the High Level Group (HLG) on Education for All (EFA), which was organised by UNESCO in Brasilia, Brazil in November 2004 saw most of the developing Commonwealth countries along with civil society organisations advocating on the themes of child labour and gender parity. The forum is used to lever political commitment, find funds and mobilise technical support for the member countries of the United Nations. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative was invited to the forum as an observer.

Of particular interest to human rights were discussions around the commitment of states towards a strong global movement advocating greater gender parity in education. It was particularly noted that countries in the South Asian Commonwealth countries such as India and Pakistan have been reluctant to commit to elimination of child labour.

Interestingly, India is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) but has not committed itself to the Optional Protocols to the CRC on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the involvement of children in armed conflict. On the contrary, smaller Commonwealth nations like Tonga and Bangladesh have been able to meet the criteria of the EFA due to visionary and strategic programmes, opting for decentralised planning for EFA, further government accountability, transparency and continued commitment to eradicate illiteracy with civil society groups.

Discussions led to member countries agreeing on the need to work harder to ensure legislative reforms to protect the girl child and women in all spheres of education rights. In most countries, a strong general policy on gender equality is also needed so that both women’s and men’s interests are explicitly considered in all legislation, policies and programmes.

The final communiqué of the HLG meeting reflects some of the resolutions passed.

  • The participants at the meeting reiterated that the global community had not met the goals of bringing girls and boys to equal levels of education and this would be difficult by the year 2005 in primary and secondary education. To ensure this, “bold steps” are necessary and these same issues need to be addressed at other world forums such as at the UN Assembly on the Millennium Declaration, the meeting of G-8 countries, African Union, and the World Economic Forum.
  • There is need for governments to make a strong political commitment by formulating national education policies conforming to international education initiatives.
  • Some of the gray areas include exclusion of marginalised groups and children living with HIV/AIDS in the EFA mission.
  • The three important areas to propel reform initiatives will be to concentrate further on education for girls, to recognise the critical role, which is played by teachers and the need to utilise domestic and external resources judiciously.

It is certain that a lack of coordination between governments, civil society groups and donor support has jeopardised the commitments made for the year 2005. Lack of participation from civil society groups at the forum demonstrated that if countries are to achieve gender equality by 2015, consultations need to be more participative between civil society, governments and other such stakeholders.

The next HLG meeting is scheduled to be held in People’s Republic of China from the 28 –30 November 2005 on the theme ‘Literacy’ with a special focus on Education for Rural People.


CHRI Newsletter, Spring 2005

Editors: Vaishali Mishra & Clare Doube, CHRI;
Print: Anshu Tejpal, Electronic:
Jyoti Bhargava, CHRI; Web Developer: Swayam Mohanty, CHRI.
Acknowledgement: Many thanks to all contributors

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The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent international NGO mandated to ensure the practical realisation of human rights in the Commonwealth.