British take moral lead

27th April 2001 at 01:00
Britain has taken a lead since Dakar in demanding measures to reduce child poverty worldwide and achieve primary education for all.

But it has so far shied away from backing the establishment of a global fund to support Education for All initiatives in all countries that produce a national education plan.

International Development Secretary Clare Short and Chancellor Gordon Brown have pressed for debt relief tied to reducing poverty and increased spending on education.

Mr Brown has publicly acknowledged that in the poorest countries "the case for investing in primary education is unaswerable and remains mostly unanswered", and said it was tragic that 130 million children still do not attend primary school.

Since 1997, Britain has allotted a further pound;500 million to primary education. This year, it offered to write off all debts by heavily indebted poor countries and aims to increase the aid budget by 45 per cent by 2004.

It is also focusing on poverty reduction rather than aid-for-trade, and is supporting programmes which recipient countries have developed themselves.

Italy, which hosts the G8 summi in July, has backed non-governmental organisations' call for a global education trust. But Ms Short has fiercely defended Britain's right to control its aid rather than handing large sums to an international fund.

The NGOs argue that a separate fund is needed to convince developing countries that funds really will be available if they invest time and money in developing a comprehensive plan for primary education.

They have been heartened by Mr Brown's announcement in February that the Government will next year create a fund to speed the introduction of universal primary education in the Commonwealth where 75 million children lack basic schooling.

Mr Brown said he hoped the fund, to be launched by the Queen in her Jubilee year, would be supported by businesses but so far has not spelled out how much will be provided by the Government.

However, he acknowleged that the IMF and World Bank meeting in Washington this weekend, and the G8 and UN Children's summits later this year needed to help ensure that "anywhere that poverty and injustice exists we will achieve our goal that no child is left behind".

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