In May 2017, thirteen Eastern African Member States of UNESCO gathered in Djibouti to participate in a conference on higher education, its challenges and role in advancing science, climate change resilience, peace and human security and ICTs for development in the region. The conference, jointly organized by UNESCO and the government of Djibouti, brought together ministries of higher education, universities, tertiary education institutions, representatives from the African Union, United Nations entities, representatives from the National Commissions and youth representatives.

The participants have reached consensus on the following recommendations detailed in a regional statement: (1) Establish a center of excellence in Djibouti under the auspices of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research; (2) Develop interdisciplinary courses bringing together social sciences and natural sciences with a view to institutionalizing and mainstreaming issues of peace, security and gender across the university system; (3) Establish mechanisms for dialogue among national governments, regional bodies and researchers to contribute to the development of national and regional policies on peace and security; (4) Create a regional cross-border consortium of Open Distance and e-Learning (ODeL) systems in enhancing accessible ODeL practices (including for people with disabilities and learning difficulties), mutualize resources through Open Education Resources and pooling human resources and technical resources; (5) Establish a joint research agenda in ICT in education in the Eastern Africa region.

One of the major outcomes of the conference is the commitment from the 12 countries represented to accelerate the ratification of the Addis Convention. The conference also gave a platform for young people from the region to make their voice heard by reiterating the role of youth as important actors in development through innovation (re. Youth Statement). The conference was an opportunity for Eastern Africa Member States and stakeholders to reaffirm their commitment to key global and regional frameworks that put higher education at the forefront of the development agenda (e.g. SDGs, CESA)

The recommendations will be implemented in partnership with UN entities that participated in the conference such as the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the African Union. The African Virtual University (AVU) will also play a critical role in building upon existing science and technology networks in the region.

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