Rich countries urged to put cash into a fund for the world's pupils
At the World Bank spring meeting, Canadian finance minister Paul Martin criticised attempts so far to meet the target set at last year's conference in Dakar, Senegal, that was designed to achieve education for all by 2015.
His intervention is a hopeful sign that the issue will be high on the agenda at the G8 summit Canada is hosting in Ottawa in 2002, the crunch year by which developing countries have pledged to draw up national plans for education for all and will need funds to support them. Canada's commitment will add to support for a global fund from Italy, which will host the G8 summit this July in Genoa. BritishChancellor Gordon Brown has announced plans for a Commonwealth education fund.
Mr Martin said: "We cannot afford to waste more time. The need for action is immediate and the resource pressures are not insurmountable."
To underline his point he announced that Canada would quadruple its investments in basic education in poor countries.
He also secured a commitment by finance ministers to review progress on implementing the Dakar pledges at a future meeting. Their involvement is a key step to securing the necessary funds.
Another significant development at the meeting was backing for a global fund to tackle health issues.
UN experts have warned that 32 countries are unlikely to meet the 2015 target and 27 others are making faltering progress.