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La Educación
Número: (132-133) I,II
Año: 1999

Social Actors and their Role in Education Reform

Three social actors have been instructed or encouraged by the Presidents to implement the commitments of the Santiago Summit and to support education reform initiatives: the governments, non-governmental organizations, and the international development community.

The role of national governments

Education is, above all, a political responsibility of each nation, its government and its people. Therefore, policy making and policy implementation are the responsibility of national and local governments, together with the private sector, and other components of civil society.

The Heads of State and Government restated this responsibility in Santiago. Though they requested international collaboration to shape national policies and reform agendas, they decided to conduct the policy-making process themselves, and to coordinate its implementation. They further decided to institutionalize such an inter-governmental policy-making process. To that end, they decided to consolidate the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG), charged with the responsibility to monitor the Summit follow-up process. To chair the SIRG, the Santiago Summit established a troyka, composed of the two last Summit hosts (USA and Chile) and the host of the forthcoming Summit in the year 2001 (Canada). The Organization of American States General Secretariat will provide technical support to the SIRG and will build a needed institutionalized memory for hemispheric summitry.

To conduct the implementation process of the Summit education initiatives, the Ministers of Education established a Coordinating Group composed of ten members, chaired by Mexico. Again, these developments indicate that education policy making and policy implementation in the Hemisphere is the responsibility of its countries and national institutions.

The role of non-governmental organizations

Civil society plays a growing role in education in the Americas. In Santiago, the Heads of State and Government “recognized the contributions of the private sector, philanthropic foundations, and pertinent non-governmental organizations.”

It is important to point out, though, that the participation of civil society in the preparation of the Santiago Plan of Action has been very modest. As a matter of fact, up to now there has been no formal instance to count on the effective contribution of civil society within the summitry process. Therefore, a renewed effort is needed to ensure the involvement of the private sector and other components of civil society in summitry. Certainly Canada will play an important role in this field during the preparatory process of the next Summit in the year 2001.

The role of the international development community

The Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their commitment to promote multilateral horizontal cooperation in education in the Americas. To that end, they decided “to instruct the Organization of American States (OAS) and request the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank … to provide … support for programs and initiatives that are consistent with the goals, objectives, and actions proposed in this Chapter of the Plan of Action.”

The Presidents encouraged the IDB “to work with member countries to substantially increase the share of new lending for primary and secondary education,” and requested “that the IDB establish a special regional fund for education in the Hemisphere, utilizing the existing resources of the institution.”

The Heads of State and Government also instructed the OAS and requested the IDB, the World Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin-America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and the UNESCO to develop and strengthen regional cooperation in specific areas of education, such as distance education, internship and exchange programs, educational information technology, educational statistics, and education quality assessment.

The Presidents further decided to strengthen the Organization of American States as the political agency of the Inter-American System. They specifically “instructed the OAS to foster, articulate and facilitate, through ministerial meetings and other mechanisms developed by the Member States in the framework of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI), collaboration and joint efforts in the Hemisphere and, to that end, to convene, in consultation with the coordinating countries, technical consultation forums of the countries in the Hemisphere in order to contribute to the implementation of the commitments included in this Chapter of the Plan of Action.”

Finally, the Presidents and Heads of State charged the OAS General Secretariat with the responsibility for providing technical support to the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG) and for building an institutional memory for hemispheric summitry. To coordinate this task, the Secretary General of the OAS established the Office of Summit Follow-up within the General Secretariat.