Recession May Cost U.N. Its Education Development Goal

Posted by Nikhil Swaminathan

african-primary-schoolAmong the targets set out by the U.N. in its Millennium Development Goals, which it adopted in 2000, was a plan to ensure primary education for all children worldwide. The recently released UNESCO "Global Monitoring Report" warns that universal primary education may be imperiled by the global recession.A Brookings Institute report in advance of last year's G20 summit warned that Africa would lose crucial capital investments from the United States and Europe as a result of the recession and that the lost funds would have a major impact on poorer people. That seems to be true. Take the example of France: Last year, the AFP reported that the country budgeted 0.47 percent of its GNP for development assistance, but that it would dwindle to 0.41 percent in 2010.Among the achievements made by the U.N. over the last ten years is 33 million more children attending schools. UNESCO estimates that $16 billion per year will be needed to get the remaining 72 million children into school. (At the current pace, only 16 million more children will be enrolled by the target date of 2015.)The $16 billion cost seems immense, the report's lead author Kevin Watkins told The Guardian, "unless measured against the scale of resources mobilized to rescue ailing financial institutions." He went on to add:

"It represents about 2% of the amount mobilised to rescue just four major banks in the UK and US. Governments point out that securing the financial assets and balance sheets of banks represents an investment. But the same is true of international aid for education, which is an investment in poverty reduction, shared prosperity and a more equitable pattern of globalization."
The UNESCO report also calls out rich countries for exaggerating the amount of aid they've offered to the developing world to ameliorate the effects of the global economic slowdown. Among those who have strongly implored rich nations to continue their aid programs in spite of the depression is Bill Gates.Photo via Flickr user Teseum