On 7 March, 2016, the Director-General, Irina Bokova, met with the Arab Group of UNESCO Member States on the occasion of a working luncheon under the Presidency of H.E. Mr. Meshal Hayat, Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Kuwait to UNESCO and President of the Arab Group.
The members of the Arab Group exchanged with the Director-General on a set of questions of common interest and concern to their countries, notably on UNESCO’s presence in the region, including on the efforts led by the Organization in the areas of literacy, the Organization’s response to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and its repercussions on displaced people and refugees, as well as on measures to further enhance UNESCO’s visibility in the region, also through increased resources’ mobilization.
During a wide-ranging, fruitful and interactive discussion, the Director-General thanked the President of the Arab Group and its members for the opportunity to meet and discuss about issues of common interest, commending the Group’s enhanced engagement in UNESCO, following the Chairmanship of the Executive Board by H.E. Mr. Mohamed Sameh Amr, Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Egypt to UNESCO, and of H.E. Ms. Samira Al-Moosa, Permanent Delegate of Oman to UNESCO, for her recent election as Chair of the Special Committee of the Executive Board.
Equally, the Director-General stressed Arab States’ financial engagement in the Organization through the support provided by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to bolster UNESCO’s response to the Syria crisis.
The Director-General pursued by emphasizing the important efforts undertaken by countries in the region to implement Agenda 2030, indicating that such an effort was particularly opportune at a time when the region, and Member States beyond, are faced with the rise of migration resulting from the refugee crisis as well as challenges relating to social cohesion and societal transformation.
The members of the Arab Group stressed the importance of ownership by each individual country in the implementation of Agenda 2030, equally stressing the importance for their countries that UNESCO scales up its efforts in the areas of teacher training, literacy, revised curricula and technical and vocational education.
In this respect, the UNESCO Regional Category II Centre on Adult Education and Literacy in the Arab States based in Egypt stands as an pioneer institution providing much needed expertise and quality guidance to the region, in close cooperation with UNESCO’s Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States based in Beirut, and the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning in Hamburg.
Discussions also addressed an overview of current and ongoing UNESCO projects in the region, in particular on the Organization’s response to the Syria crisis focusing on secondary and higher education, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and developing a policy framework for non-formal education at regional level, including adult literacy, life skills, and development training, which UNESCO undertakes in cooperation with OCHA, UNHCR and a number of donors. Interventions also highlighted the importance of youth engagement in the region noting the encouraging results of the UNESCO/EU - NET-MED Youth Project.
In ending, the Director-General encouraged members of the Arab Group at UNESCO to explore avenues for regional initiatives on the implementation of Agenda 2030 and informed members of the Group of her intention to convene an information meeting, in late March, on UNESCO’s continued efforts to address the crisis in Syria and Iraq.