Building on an ongoing partnership that has evolved over recent years, UNESCO and Saudi Arabia held their first annual review, including plans for future activities, as this cooperation enters a new phase.
Thanks to the long-standing partnership between UNESCO and Saudi Arabia, ongoing work to provide secondary education for Syrian refugees, support intercultural dialogue, financially assist Palestinian university students, and strengthen the Arabic language at UNESCO will continue. “We cherish our cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and now with active participation of Saudi foundations, this partnership could not be stronger,” said Mr Jean Yves le Saux, the Director of the Bureau of Strategic Planning as he opened the meeting. His Excellency Mr. Ibrahim Al-Balawi, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Saudi Arabia to UNESCO headed the delegation of Saudi partners.
Representatives from the Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud Foundation, who are currently strengthening the Arabic language within UNESCO with a support of USD 5 million, were at the meeting. During the first year of this strategic partnership, multilingualism was enhanced by translating key publications, facilitating the Arabic interpretation of meetings and through the successful celebration of “World Arabic Language Day 2017”. Moreover, a significant increase in the production of content in Arabic, both on UNESCO’s website and social media platforms, resulted in greater outreach and engagement with Arabic speakers around the Organization’s programmes and activities.
The Saudi Fund for Development was also present. The Fund supported UNESCO’s initiatives to address the Syrian refugee crisis as it unfolded in Lebanon, in the amount of USD 4 million. Main results achieved since 2015 include access to formal public secondary education across Lebanon for 7,453 Syrian and vulnerable non-Lebanese students; access to learning materials through “School in a Bag” for 7,045 Syrian and Lebanese students and over 60 teachers having received capacity building training on Learning to Live Together (LTLT) with Arigatou International.
The King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue has been a strategic implementation partner to UNESCO since 2011 when the Government of Saudi Arabia and UNESCO established the “Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Programme for a Culture of Peace and Dialogue” made possible through a generous 5 million USD grant. Operational since 2012, the Programme has just completed its second phase. Among the many highlights, are the two International Conferences on Youth Volunteering and Dialogue, held respectively in Jeddah (2013) and Paris (2017).
A unique “Writing Peace” manual for schoolchildren, a global youth contest “If I Were” on the power of empathy and a travelling exhibition on “Muslim-Arab Legacy in the West” were also among the most successful achievements of the programme. At the Arab regional level, more than 100 national workshops and 20 regional seminars were also undertaken. For example, a regional network for religious leaders was created and has been active since 2014 to promote messages of peace in religious ceremonies. A consortium of Arab Universities developed and implemented ongoing accredited courses on Peace and Dialogue. Recently, in collaboration with ministries of education and other partners, innovative programs on preventing violent extremism and global citizenship were promoted. A pioneer program on promoting the psychosocial wellbeing of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon was also established targeting ministries, NGOs, and local communities.
The Saudi Committee for the Relief of Palestinian People, a strong and generous partner to UNESCO since 2005, provided around USD 19 million aiming at enhancing the higher education system in Palestine and to promote inclusion of all students in the higher education system in Palestine”. The recent establishment of the 12 “Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz Libraries”, provided more than 21,532 books, library subscribers reached 7,595 persons, the number of books borrowed reached 12,331 books, the total number of direct beneficiaries reached was more than 78,745 students, and the indirect number of beneficiaries (families of students) exceeded 472,470 persons. The continuation of the partnership with the Saudi Committee through the newly King Salman Humanitarian and Relief Center is promising mainly in the field of education and in favor of several countries such as Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen and Somalia.
In order to ensure close coordination, the review meeting will be held on an annual basis.