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The E-9 Initiative: Driving Forces for Education for All (EFA)



Country (ies) and institutions

Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan


The E-9 Initiative provides its member countries with opportunities to collectively address education issues of common interest through exchange of information, experiences and best practices. A rotational Chair country and UNESCO Secretariat collaboratively organize biennial ministerial review meetings, annual senior official meetings and bimonthly meetings with the E-9 Permanent Delegations to UNESCO in order to review progress on activities and discuss issues in education.

Background and set-up

The E-9 Initiative was launched at the Education for All (EFA) Summit of the Nine High Populated Countries in New Delhi in 1993 as a follow-up to the Jomtien World Conference on Education in 1990. UNICEF's former Director James Grant had the original idea of the E-9 Initiative and UNESCO's Director General Federico Mayor Zaragoza adapted it. While other UN convening agencies, such as the World Bank, UNFPA and UNDP joined the Initiative, it "was established at a highly political level and very rapidly became UNESCO's responsibility only" (Bibeau el al. 2003, 6). "E" stands for Education and "9" for the nine constituent countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan. Through establishing partnerships among the E-9 countries, the initiative has attempted to help them learn from each other by exchanging information, experiences and practices and building capacities to address educational issues in these countries, which is essential for achieving EFA given that the E-9 countries represent over half of the world's population, two-thirds of the world's illiterate adults and around 43% of the world's out-of-school children. The Ministerial Review Meetings, organized by a rotational E-9 Chair and the UNESCO Secretariat, are held every two years. Issues of common interest, such as literacy and teacher education, are discussed. During the meeting, a framework for action is constituted for interactivities among the member countries in order to address the issues raised. The E-9 Chair and UNESCO review the progress on these activities through follow-up meetings and reports.

The partnership

The members mainly work together based on the action framework agreed during the biennial Ministerial Review Meetings. Since 1993, the E-9 countries' Ministers of Education have met eight times to review their achievements and experiences and discuss challenges in education. The most recent meeting was the Abuja Framework for Action and Cooperation on literacy from the Eighth Ministerial Review Meeting in June 2010. Some examples of the ongoing projects are: Nigeria's Improving Mother Tongue Literacy with Community Involvement (with) Indonesia; Egypt's Overcoming Socio-cultural Barriers to Education for Girls and Women (with) Pakistan; India's Conference on Centrality of Literacy in Development (E-9 and other countries are invited). The E-9 member states have ownership over these activities while the rotational E-9 Chair (currently Nigeria), along with UNESCO Secretariat, takes leadership for coordination. UNESCO mainly provides technical support and reviews (or provides a platform to review) the progress on the ongoing activities in such occasions as bimonthly meetings, teleconferences, senior official meetings and written reports. Since various actors at various levels in various regions are involved in the initiative, E-9 coordination is not an easy task. While focal points are set up in each E-9 Ministry of Education and UNESCO offices, they are subject to change, sometimes without selecting a successor. Just having a teleconference requires substantial energy and effort due to factors such as communication mishap and time difference (e.g. holiday seasons are different among the member countries, the time difference between Mexico and China is 14 hours). While all the member states are committed to the initiative, they are in different socioeconomic developmental stages and find it difficult to make contributions to the same extent. It is important for some wealthier countries, such as Brazil, China, India or Mexico to take more of a leadership role in the initiative in the initiative, to provide financial resources to the other countries, or explore funding opportunities, such as the South-South Cooperation Fund, to attack educational barriers. The External Oversight of the E-9 Initiative: With regard to measuring the impact of the initiative, an independent external evaluation team, contracted by UNESCO, conducted research on the initiative in 2003. The results were not positive: network was not taking place and the initiative did not necessarily correspond to their needs. UNESCO (2003) countered the criticisms arguing that the research was overly dependent on interviews and the report failed to consider the initiative's contribution to EFA performance within the E-9 countries. Information regarding the initiative is available at UNESCO's website: Click here

Lessons learned

As already mentioned, being able to share their experiences and to exchange best practices for capacity development among the member countries is a notable benefit of the E-9 Initiative. One of the challenges facing the initiative is defining the E-9 countries. Unlike in 1993 when the initiative started, some of the E-9 countries, specifically Brazil, China, India and Mexico, are no longer developing countries in many respects. China is already the second largest economy in the world and India and Brazil are expected to be the third and the fifth largest economies respectively in the coming decades. Mexico is now a member of Organizations for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). These member states are no longer countries of South, while other member states are less wealthy with fewer resources. Yet, this variety among the member countries can also be an advantage for the initiative. The above-stated countries can be or are already, at least to some extent, driving forces in the E-9 Initiative and more broadly in EFA. In fact, they are becoming or are emerging donors in education. Through financial and technical collaboration among the E-9 countries and beyond, the initiative can be a role model of South-South Cooperation. In order to make the best use of their human and financial resources, it may be crucial to reframe the profile of the E-9 countries into more conferring prestige ones like BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Another issue to be addressed is how the E-9 countries collaborate. While they are active in implementing education programs, it is often the case that an E-9 country organizes an activity and invites other countries; therefore it is unclear in what way they actually collaborate. It is essential to reconsider how they should collaborate within the framework of the E-9 Initiative, though further argument needs to be developed in other occasions.

Complementarity with North-South cooperation

Although traditional donors have not actively participated, involving them in the initiative could be mutually beneficial for both traditional donors and countries in the South. While traditional donors can share their experiences, practices and information with the E-9 countries and mobilize financial and technical resources in various ways, they can also learn from interactions with the E-9 countries and apply the knowledge and experience acquired through the initiative in their own contexts. As touched upon in the previous sections, while the E-9 countries definitely learn from each other, the way they collaborate may need to be reconsidered. The traditional donors may be able to contribute to redirect their collaboration strategies through their experiences with the North-South Cooperation. It may be noteworthy that there now seems to be no clear-cut boundary between the North and the South anymore. Emerging donors, such as China, India, Brazil and Mexico, will eventually become traditional donors and they can exercise leaderships not only in E-9 but also in EFA. The demand and the supply in certain types of activities (e.g. teacher education, literacy) are matched through the biennial Ministerial Review Meetings and other E-9 meetings, which determine the demand and thus create actions to supply activities for the specific demands. They identify issues of common interest to be addressed in collaboration with other E-9 countries. The results are described through progress reports from each E-9 countries. Yet, the outcome of the implemented programs is often obscure with some exceptions. The two year period between the Ministerial Review Meetings may not be enough for planning, implementation and review. It may be more appropriate to allow more time (e.g. four years) for a given theme and continuously receive feedback from UNESCO, E-9 members and others for longer term preparation and development.

How to share

Knowledge sharing is an intangible asset and can be beneficial for both providers and recipients—one of the concepts underlying the E-9 Initiative. All the E-9 countries are both recipients and providers of information. Using opportunities provided through the initiative, they propose programs and activities that they have in mind and materialize them in collaboration with others. Along with technical support, financial support, external or internal, is crucial to administer and create programmes and activities. A prime example is the travelling costs for meetings and information sharing. While face to face meetings among Ministers, senior officials and other representatives are undoubtedly effective for mutual learning, moving people from one place to another is costly and some countries are not as affluent as others, though the majority of the E-9 countries are now able to travel without depending on financial assistance. The solutions and models should be accessible to all the public if found useful and applicable. This might attract external technical and financial support as well. The E-9 Chair and the other member states should promote these solution models. UNESCO can support their efforts by providing a platform for knowledge sharing and policy dialogue.


This initiative started in 1993 and is still ongoing.

Name of Primary Contact Person/s

Sabine Detzel

Title of Primary Contact Person/s

Programme Specialist (UNESCO's EFA Global Partnerships Team)

City and country

Paris, France

Contact Email/s


+33 01 45 68 1052

Key players

Marian Katagum, Ambassador, the Permanent Delegation of Nigeria (the E-9 Chair) to UNESCO / E-mail: org.