Oxfam lashes Blair for lack of global leadership.

Oxfam lashes Blair for lack of global leadership.

Hopes of the British prime minister attending the conference at the end of this month in Dakar, Senegal, have faded.

Yesterday Oxfam, which is leading a campaign for an $8bn (£5.1bn) global action plan to tackle the crisis, said the prime minister was not providing the level of international leadership on education that the chancellor, Gordon Brown, had shown on managing third world debt.

His leadership could make a real difference. He has so far failed to act and we are running out of time,” said Kevin Watkins, a spokesperson for Oxfam. “Unfortunately, education seems to be the number one issue at home, but not overseas.”

The Dakar forum marks the 10th anniversary of the international pledge on universal primary education, which was supposed to have been achieved this year but has now been moved back to 2015.

Oxfam says even the 2015 target is doubtful, and it has called on Mr Blair to put the education crisis on the agenda of July’s meeting of the group of eight leading economies in Osaka.

Oxfam lashes Blair for lack of global leadership.

In response, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “We will be doing everything we can do to get education in the developing world on the agenda at Osaka, but the presidency rests with the Japanese and they have their own concerns and priorities.”

He added: “We will be playing a leading role at Dakar. We see education as an absolutely vital development issue. We are committed to universal primary education by 2015.”

But the latest draft plan of action for Dakar reveals that the international community has failed to increase its funding for third world education.

The plan, which does little more than state broad principles for action, has been dismissed by Oxfam, which describes it as an “affront” to the millions of children being denied the right to an education.

“This is precisely the sort of bureaucratic, half-baked thinking that threatens to turn the Dakar conference into high farce,” said Mr Watkins. “We are being asked to accept a plan of action that is devoid of funding commitments and lacking in any strategy for achieving universal basic education.”

According to Oxfam’s global action plan, western countries would raise £2.53bn in increased aid and debt relief to help third world schools, while developing countries would raise a similar amount through reducing military spending.

The World Bank, the UN Development Programme and several EU governments – including Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands – support Oxfam’s proposals. One proposal includes a special provision that calls for roughly 65% of the money the west generates to be diverted to education in sub-Saharan Africa.

There are more children out of school in sub-Saharan Africa than there were in 1990. And, if trends continue, there will be 57m children out of school by 2015.

Oxfam resigned from the Dakar conference’s organising committee last month, blaming “grossly inadequate” political leadership.