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EFA’s linkages with other global initiatives on education

The Right to Education occupies a central place in human rights, and is essential and indispensable for the exercise of all human rights and for development.

Since 2000, the governments of the world, together with agencies of the United Nations have launched four initiatives, all of which focus on education in one way or another. These are:

  • The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) – eight goals with a target date of 2015
  • Education for All (EFA) – six goals with a target date of 2015
  • The United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD) – from 2003 to 2012
  • The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) – from 2005 to 2014

Although distinctive in significant respects, these initiatives share much in common, in terms of their underlying values and ideals as well as their goals and target dates. As UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsura noted, while it is important to know why the international community set up these initiatives and how they differ from one another, it is even more important that effective linkages and productive synergies are developed between them.

All four initiatives are important steps towards realizing the Right to Education for All. Below are the specific linkages of the MDG, UNLD and DESD to the Education for All initiative.


The Millennium Development Goals 2 and 3 - achieve universal primary education, and promote gender equality and empower women – are directly related to EFA and share the same target date of 2015. Good education, however, also contributes to the attainment of the other six millennium development goals. For more information, visit the UN Website on MDG

Over 800 million adults have not had the opportunity to learn to read and write. The UNLD contributes to all EFA goals by making sure that people have the tools and skills which they need for the full range of education and learning possibilities. Specifically, among the UNLD’s goals are to make sure that 50% more people can use reading and writing by 2015, giving special attention to women; and make considerable contribution to the other EFA goals by 2015. For more information, visit UNESCO Bangkok's UNLD page


Education has a central role in promoting sustainable development. Part of the ESD’s objectives is to make people aware that education is a good basis for a sustainable way of life. The principles of sustainable development must find their place in children’s schooling, higher education, non-formal education and community-based learning activities. Specifically, both EFA and ESD focus on quality education and quality learning, and emphasis on the importance of non-formal education. For more information, visit UNESCO Bangkok's Education for Sustainable Development Website


Although there are differences among the four international initiatives, they have important aspects in common and coordination among all concerned bodies and organizations in implementing these initiatives is of utmost importance.


Source: “Working Together for Education: International Cooperation in Action”, an Education for Sustainable Development in Action, Action Research Monograph published by UNESCO (June 2005). Download the document (in pdf)