Initiatives to Expand Access to Basic Education and Improve Childhood Development in Poor Countries


JULY 23, 2000


TODAY, PRESIDENT CLINTON ANNOUNCED NEW INITIATIVES TO EXPAND ACCESS TO BASIC EDUCATION AND IMPROVE CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT IN POOR COUNTRIES. Part of the Okinawa Summit's unprecedented emphasis on international development, these measures include:

Better access to basic education can be a catalyst for poverty reduction and broader participation in the benefits of global economic integration. Literacy is fundamental not only to economic opportunity in today's increasingly knowledge-intensive economy but also to maternal and infant health, prevention and treatment of HIV-AIDS and other infectious diseases, elimination of abusive child labor, improved agricultural productivity, sustainable population growth and environmental conditions, and expanded democratic participation and respect for human rights.

The international community has set a goal of achieving universal access to primary education by 2015; however, half of children in developing countries do not attend school and 880 million adults remain illiterate. An estimated 120 million children in developing countries do not attend any school at all, and an additional 150 million children drop out of school before completing the four years of schooling needed to develop sustainable literacy and numeracy skills.

The United Nations World Food Program estimates that 300 million children in developing countries are chronically hungry. Many of these children are among the nearly 120 million who do not attend school. Others are enrolled in school but underperform or drop out due in part to hunger or malnourishment.

The President's international school feeding pilot program and the G-8's support for basic education in poor countries are part of the G-8's unprecedented emphasis on development. One of the principal objectives of the Okinawa Summit has been to strengthen the partnership of developed and developing countries, international institutions, the private sector, and civil society in support of global poverty alleviation. The Summit will create a framework for significantly increased bilateral, multilateral, and private sector assistance to poor countries with effective policies in three interrelated areas: infectious diseases, basic education, and information technology. The goal is to mobilize a more comprehensive response by the international community in response to developing countries that exert leadership at home on these issues. No issue is more fundamental to human progress than basic education:




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