Education International - Annual Report 2003

Part A - Working to Achieve EI's Principal Aims
Aim 1: Quality Education For All
Aim 2: Improving the welfare and status of teachers and education personnel
Aim 3: Ending discrimination in education
Aim 4: Promoting democracy, sustainable development and solidarity
Aim 5: Strengthening EI and membership participation
Part B - Summary of EI operations
List of member organisations


Last year, the introduction to the 2002 Annual report ended with the words: “…the external pressures on our profession and our movement will continue to challenge us in the year ahead”. As the events of 2003 unravelled, these words turned out to be all too close to the mark.
For even as globalisation became more real to everyone, the global system of peace and security dating back to the Second World War was badly shaken. The United Nations was divided then sidelined over intervention in Iraq, then destabilised by the assassination of dedicated humanitarian staff in Baghdad. The Middle-East peace process fell victim to intractable extremisms and cycles of terrible violence. Global trade talks in Mexico broke down to be replaced by a series of bilateral deals. Global insecurity increased. A new disease, SARS, created economic havoc, while the global epidemic of AIDS/HIV continued to spread.

Throughout the year we continued working to achieve EI’s Principal Aims. We maintained the campaign for Quality Education for All, with the Biggest Lesson in the world’s history, on the education of girls. We worked hard to improve the welfare and status of teachers and education personnel. Towards the end of the year, we made progress in Ethiopia on recognition of the ETA. But in Colombia killings of teachers continued. Our work to end discrimination in education continued with more country level programs and more effective networking. More member organisations than ever from both industrialised and developing countries cooperated on solidarity programmes. Important work on education against AIDS/HIV continued in Africa.
These were all key features of our first four Principal Aims, and in all these ways, EI and its member unions made their contribution to the building of better communities around the world. But the external political and economic context meant that governments and the media directed their attention elsewhere.
Governments have agreed to our EFA targets – at the G8, at the OECD, when they adopted the UN Millenium Development Goals. But there was little or no movement – governments were " marking time ". We have much unfinished business. To achieve the 2015 goals, concrete political decisions on funding will have to be made by mid 2005 – less than 18 months away. In 2004, leading up to our World Congress, we need a new sense of urgency to mobilise political support for our goals.
Even the business world is speaking out on the need to invest in education. But what are the implications of the growing interest in education of corporations? Where will the new involvement of hi-tech companies take us ?
2003 was a year when the pressures for commercialisation of education became clearer. EI was present as an advocate for public education where it counted – such as at meetings of government representatives to promote GATS, especially in higher education. That advocacy has been of crucial importance with the World Bank which shared our goal of Education for All, but showed a worrying tendency to look for short cuts that would lower quality and downgrade the work of our members. Parts of the Bank’s World Development Report released this year were unacceptable, and we made this clear to the Bank’s President. We expect the new consultative mechanism set up with him to produce concrete results at the country level in the new year.

2003 was also a year for strengthening our organisation. Much time and effort went into developing a new structure for the new Europe – stretching from the Mediterranean to the Urals, with an expanding European Union that is increasingly active in education. Globally, we moved further down the path to unity of teachers and education employees so as to strengthen our capacity for advocacy. We were active participants in important talks about the future of the Global Unions. When key players on the world economic scene met, in Washington, in Paris or Davos, EI was present and the case for education was put to them.
But it is precisely here that we see the dilemma. Key economic advisers to Presidents on both sides of the Atlantic agree with us on the importance of education. Key leaders of industry say the same things. So do the heads of the major international agencies, including the financial ones. But all those good intentions can come to nought because of factors such as volatility of exchange rates, tax breaks for the wealthy, persistent unemployment and lack of consumer confidence, or trade deals that protect the financial rights of patent holders but ignore the negotiating rights of employees.

That is the context in which we have been striving to implement our fifth Principal Aim – strengthening EI and its membership participation. On that front we progressed in 2003 - the European restructuring was an example, the new EI information strategy was another. But we still have a way to go. We must involve young people more. We must strengthen our links with the civil society organisations in which many of our members are active locally. We must work more on global research and information services that respond to the concrete needs of EI member organisations. We all know today that global events and trends impact on local communities. EI and its member unions must work harder to strengthen the link between the global and the local parts of our work. Like our colleagues in other sectors, we must be on guard against allowing external factors such as volatile exchange rates to weaken our global federations, including EI, at the very time when we need them most.
Principal Aim 5 is about building our capacity to have an impact on the externalities that challenge us. That
impact can be achieved by combining mobilisation with advocacy, backed up by competent research and
information capacities. And it is also about democracy and membership participation. At the end of the day,
these are the essential strengths of our international.

EI’s World Congress will be the occasion to ask “How well have we done?” and then to determine our action
for the next three years. With our coalition partners from civil society, we have worked hard to get the international community, governments, even the world of business, to accept critical goals such as Quality Education for All by the year 2015. The crunch time for key political decisions will come in 2005. We must pursue the tasks we have set ourselves with a new sense of urgency. And we must remain strong.

Fred van Leeuwen
General Secretary

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