Coordinating the Education Agenda in the Region
Education being central to the realization of the ‘Leaving no one behind’ agenda, all Member States and international education community unanimously committed in 2015 to achieving the SDG4 Goal, ‘Ensure equitable and inclusive quality education for all and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.’ UNESCO, as part of its leadership role on SDG4, aims at facilitating information and prompting needed discussions to unpack the SDG 4 agenda, in order to identify ways and approaches to tackle with the present day challenges in education.
To support country-led actions and the roadmaps emerging from the Arab Meetings on Education (ARMED) in a coordinated manner and promote regional cooperation and collaboration, the Arab Regional Support Group for Education 2030 was constituted in July 2016 and has since supported a number of regional, sub-regional and national initiatives to address regional issues of common concern and provide coordinated, coherent support at all levels. The SDG4 support group has been utilized to garner support and ownership on various processes such as the abovementioned ARMED-IV meeting as well as the benchmarking process.
The development of the Regional Synthesis Report on SDG4 progress in the Arab States brought together findings from 16 voluntary national reports and the valuable inputs from the regional education institutes. This report presents a brief story of regional progress of SDG4 as part of the effort by the UNESCO Beirut office to document the progress made by countries in the Arab region, building on the country exercises undertaken in 2019, and taking into consideration the global devastation to the education sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The national teams worked on drafting national reports on progress achieved in SDG4 indicators, indicating partnerships and success stories with the support of regional Institutes/Organizations.
As the Education 2030 Framework for Action called on countries to establish “appropriate intermediate benchmarks (e.g. for 2020 and 2025)” for the SDG indicators, to reflect regional contexts and see achievements through relevant SDG4 indicators, UNESCO Beirut has worked closed with UIS to support the Arab region in establishing regional partnerships as well as garnering commitment from all member states on the agreed upon The Benchmarking Process for SDG4. The objective is to promote policy dialogue, based on a common understanding of countries’ different contributions to achieve a regional target and help renew emphasis on achieving SDG 4. UNESCO Beirut has also worked to build the capacities of member states on indicator measurement through two Capacity Building Workshops (preparatory, advanced) and by providing technical expertise through bilateral meetings. As such, UNESCO Beirut has worked closely with member states to support them in establishing national benchmarks.
In July 2021, the long awaited ARMED-IV was held and attended by more than 120 people for three days providing an opportune moment to reflect back not only on the first five years of the 2030 agenda but also on the extraordinary conditions which came with the COVID-19 pandemic. The ARMED-IV helped countries of the Arab region to initiate the process of reviewing the progress thus far and to examine what needs to be done in the remaining years. With firm commitments to transforming national education systems in line with Education 2030 Agenda, Arab Member States and partners have gathered at the event which resulted in concrete national action plans, enabling both countries and partners to generate national movement, unpack and contextualize the Education 2030 Agenda and promote multi-sectoral and stakeholder partnerships.
Earlier in 2021, UNESCO Beirut participated with UNESCO HQ in the process of updating the global coordination for SDG4 to formulate the Global Coordination Mechanism which aims to provide strategic guidance, review progress and make recommendations to the education community on priorities and catalytic actions to achieve the SDG4-Education 2030 agenda encouraging harmonization and coordination of partner activities at international, regional and country levels.
The 2020 Global Education Meeting Declaration stipulates the topic of education finance as one of its key priorities areas, emphasizing the need to safeguard and increase the public expenditure on education and ensure that national recovery stimulus packages include allocations to support the most vulnerable on their learning loss and socio-emotional impact. In this regard, UNESCO Beirut held a workshop on Education Financing on Efficiency & Effectiveness for Arab member states on December 2021 to cover the different types of efficiencies in education finance, help identify evidence-based and cost-effective practices to support policymakers’ decision making to improve learning outcomes. The workshop was interactive and attracted approximately 120 Participants during 2 days.
A joint regional report was prepared by a team from the World Bank, UNICEF, and UNESCO, with contributions from UNHCR and UNRWA, under the title: "COVID-19 Learning Losses: Rebuilding Quality Learning for All in MENA" and was launched virtually on December 2021 where expert panelists from across the region discussed the findings in the report and the actions that governments can take to help recover learning losses and ensure quality education for all. The report presents country responses to mitigate COVID-19’s impact on education, simulation of the impact of COVID-19 on learning outcomes, and recommendations for mitigation of learning loss and ensuring learning for all in MENA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.