Oxfam’s protest wins backers for action plan.

Oxfam’s protest wins backers for action plan.

The gathering momentum in support of a £2.3bn “Compact for Africa”, proposed by Oxfam, comes after the British charity resigned last month from the FEA’s organising committee in protest at what it saw as its failure to mobilise international funding and lack of coherent education targets.

Oxfam accused international organisations and western aid donors of a lack of political will. The draft agenda for the Dakar conference was “woefully inadequate” and offered nothing for the world’s poorest children, 125m of whom are not at school, the charity warned.

The conference should do for education what the earth summit did for the environment, rather than offering a “teddy bears’ picnic for international bureaucrats”.

The Dakar forum will mark the 10th anniversary of the international pledge on basic education for all, which was supposed to have been achieved this year. But in many countries the number of children who do not attend school has increased since 1990, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.Oxfam's protest wins backers for action plan.

Oxfam’s withdrawal has triggered a change of attitude among some donor countries and international bodies. Senior officials from the World Bank and the UN development programme are now calling on western countries to draw up a Compact for Africa.

Supporters of a special initiative for Africa have called for African governments to draw up infrastructure reform plans specifying targets for the year 2015 before they qualify for extra aid. Participating officials from Finland, Norway and the Netherlands have also come out in support of Oxfam’s programme.

“We are still lacking the political leadership for Dakar,” an Oxfam spokesman said. “This conference provides an opportunity to tackle what is the biggest single cause of global poverty and inequality. We are calling on Tony Blair to start providing the leadership role which would drag this out of the mire and turn it into something meaningful.”

The prime minister’s interest in improving internet access around the world, Oxfam fears, will do little to tackle the fundamental causes of poverty in remote villages where there are no computers. “There is no technical quick-fix available. Tony Blair needs to do for education what Gordon Brown has done for debt cancellation.”

The department for international development said yesterday that it regretted Oxfam’s withdrawal from the conference’s steering committee. “We do share some of Oxfam’s frustrations but we would like them to stay in and strengthen the process,” said a department spokesman.

Improving education – particularly among girls – is increasingly seen as a key to stimulating economic growth, controlling population and increasing health awareness.

But last month Dieter Berstecher, the head of the organising committee at the UN education, scientific and cultural organisation, said Oxfam’s appeal for a £2.5bn global education fund was unrealistic.