Press release

UNESCO Beirut reflects on the Role of Higher Education Institutions in the Arab Region in Achieving SDGs

04 - Quality Education

UNESCO Beirut organizes a first-of-its-kind regional workshop on the role of Higher Education institutions in achieving sustainable development

Cairo, 25 September 2019 - Universities,  colleges,  and  other  higher  education  institutions  (HEIs)  play  a  critical  role  in  the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal Agenda. HEIs are mentioned specifically under SDG 4 on quality and inclusive education, but in fact their influence extends across all the goals through teaching and learning, research output, and campus initiatives. HEIs facilitate social, environmental, and economic development. They are one of the most significant incubators of ideas   and   solutions   to   global   problems,   and   their   central   position   amongst   networks   of government, civil society and industry partners mean that they have vast potential to generate positive impact.

Since  the  international  community  of  Member  States  came  together  to  agree  upon  the  2030 Agenda,  some  HEIs  have  established  campus  greening  initiatives  to  improve  their  internal sustainability, while others have implemented community outreach programmes, student groups, and  research  and  innovation  hubs.  However,  in  the  Arab  region,  progress  has  been  slow.  For example,  across  the  Region,  the  International  Association  of  Universities  (IAU)  lists  just  some actions undertaken by universities related to the SDGS.

Against this backdrop, UNESCO Beirut organized on 25-26 September 2019 a regional workshop in Cairo on “The Role of Higher Education Institutions in the Arab Region in Achieving SDGs”. The workshop gathered representatives of HEIs and research institutions, in addition to representatives of the Ministries of Education and Higher Education from 12 Arab countries.  The workshop aimed to provide participants with a platform to share experiences and reflect on the SDGs and their means of implementation at the HEI level.

The opening session was attended by high-level personalities including: Egypt’s Minister of Higher Education Dr Khaled Abdelghaffar, UNESCO Beirut Director Dr Hamed al Hamami, Secretary General of the Egyptian National Commission for UNESCO Dr Ghada Abdelbary, UNESCO Beirut’s Programme Specialist for Higher Education Dr Anasse Bouhlal, and presidents of universities.

Speaking at the opening session, Dr Hamed Al Hamami stated that: “Education is a key factor in achieving sustainable development, and within the 2030 Agenda, education stands out as a stand-alone goal (SDG 4) combined with its seven targets and three means of implementation”.

He added: “Universities and other HEIs play a crucial role in achieving SDGs. Higher education institutions are specifically mentioned under SDG 4 on quality and inclusive education, but in fact their impact extends to all goals. As we all know, universities are considered as one of the most important incubators of ideas and solutions to global problems. Some universities around the world, including some in the Arab region, have established important initiatives such as greening campuses or establishing community outreach programmes. However, those limited initiatives are not enough, hence the importance of this regional workshop in pushing participants to reflect on the means to achieve SDGs in HEIs, and giving them incentives to do so”.

The workshop provided participants with a unique opportunity to share best practices, explore avenues of cooperation, and learn about UNESCO chairs/twin at HEIs as a tool to implement SDGs. The workshop generated greater interest and commitment from participants in achieving the 2030 Agenda and SDGs at the level of HEIs in the Arab region.  It was agreed that national capacity-building training workshops on SDGs will be organized, with the involvement of HEIs. Participants also showed commitment to establish UNESCO chairs in their institutions.