Member States reassert their commitment to UNESCO at the closure of the 39th General Conference

The 39th General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) culminated on November 14 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, with the adoption of a series of decisions that reassert the relevance of the organization in face of the challenges that today’s world confronts.

As part of the program, session 202 of UNESCO’s Executive Committee was held, where the importance of goal 5 (SDG5) of the 2030 Sustainable Development agenda, dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, was emphasized. It was considered as a crosswise issue that implies taking into account variables such as access to all levels of education, to decent jobs, to the use of new technologies and to their participation, specifically, in the scientific and administrative spheres. It was agreed that the prioritization of this SDG will contribute to the reduction of poverty and will provide equal opportunities as key elements to improve the living conditions of women.

The member states suggested to encourage a greater participation of women in the institution’s policies, programs and initiatives, and, since it is considered a non-negotiable issue, they proposed the establishment of a fund to supervise this priority. They also thanked the first woman to hold the position of Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, for her personal commitment to the institution’s objectives and recommended the implementation of programs to reduce gender violence, for example in fields such as journalism, decrease the discrimination based on both their gender identity and their sexual orientation, and increase their intellectual capabilities and potential.

 

On Saturday, November 4th, the Education Leadership Group, led by Qian Tang, General Management Education Assistant, met to discuss the sector’s challenges and opportunities with the aim of responding to the demands of the 2030 Agenda.

The directors of the category 1 institutes related to education participated in the meeting: the International Bureau of Education (IBE), the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP), the UNESCO Institute for Learning throughout the All life (IUAL), UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA), the UNESCO Institute for the Use of Information Technology in Education (IITE), the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (IMGEP) and the UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (IESALC).

On November 10, after a previous selection process where 9 candidates disputed the position, the Executive Board’s proposal for the position of UNESCO Director General was ratified, with the French candidate Audrey Azoulay assuming as the 11th Director General of the Organization, thus becoming the second woman to hold this position.

 

Education program to achieve the SDG4

There were 5 debates in the education sector. In the first one, a provisional budget and a program for the period 2018-2021 was approved. The program consisted of two lines of action: one created to support governments in the implementation of goal 4 (SDG4) of the 2030 Agenda on Education and the second to monitor and coordinate the SDG4 at a global and a regional level.

In this first debate, various topics related to education such as gender equality and the importance of continuing to give priority to the African continent in this matter were discussed. Since the quality of teaching depends mainly on the quality of the academic training that the teachers receive, emphasis was also placed on the training of teachers. Likewise, the importance of implementing norms and policies to guide countries in the production of statistics that, besides of being used in national decision making, can contribute to identify and share better practices in education among UNESCO member countries, was discussed.

In the second debate, three regulation instruments having to do with recommendations against discrimination, with cooperation and peace, and with human rights and fundamental freedoms in the field of education were analyzed. The need to continue making special efforts to ensure equal opportunities in education for both indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities was recognized.

The World Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications Concerning HigherEducation Project was the subject addressed in the third debate. In this regard, the Regional Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees concerning Higher Education was reviewed for both the Arab States and Latin America and the Caribbean, the latter was led by UNESCO-IESALC. Mention was made of the desire to implement the global agreement for the 40th General Conference, since it would represent an opportunity to facilitate the economic and social development of the member states.

The Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) met with the UNESCO-IESALC Director, Pedro Henríquez Guajardo, to name the members that would make up the UNESCO-IESALC Board of Directors; talk about the III Regional Conference on Higher Education (CRES 2018 in Spanish) to be held in Cordoba, Argentina from June 11 to 15, 2018; and to present the progress of the Regional Convention of Recognition of studies, qualifications and diplomas of Higher Education for Latin America and the Caribbean. On the latter, in March 2018 there will be a 4th meeting of the working group in charge of reviewing and updating the Convention, and during the CRES, an inter-ministerial consultation meeting will be held with the support of GRULAC in order to adopt the necessary modifications and achieve its implementation based on the 40th General Conference.

The conclusions of the UNESCO Youth Forum were presented in the 4th debate, an occasion in which the need to include young people in decision-making regarding the field of education was stressed. On the other hand, in the 5th debate, the creation of two study centers in China was proposed, and the reports of activities carried out during the last two years by the previously mentioned UNESCO (category 1) education institutes were analyzed, where UNESCO-IESALC had the opportunity to present their progress in higher education and describe the next CRES 2018.

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