UNESCO Regional consultation meeting on the Sustainable Development Goal #4: Education for all

Member of the European Pool of Representatives, Arleen Pimetel (AFS France), represented EFIL at the UNESCO Regional consultation meeting on the Sustainable Development Goal #4: Education for all (SDG), to be reached by 2030. On 24 and 25 October, the delegations of the European States and North America gathered to discuss the implementation of the United Nations recommendations on this SDG, together with other intergovernmental organisations such as OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development),  as well as Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)

In the long agenda, to be discussed in less than 48 hours, several subjects were addresses in debates. Monday morning, after the opening speech by Gabriela Romero, OECD chief staff, several questions and comments were brought fourth, such as the how to measure success, which statistical and mathematical methods should used and the improvement and reform of our current policies. At the same time there was established a clear position on behalf of the OECD, expressing how ambitious the SDGs were: “Even though we are showing the outcomes of OECD countries and that we have a long way to go, we must say that 15 years is too short to achieve them all in all the world, I am Mexican and I know the struggle. It wasn’t us who chose these ambitious goals it was the International Community who did” Romero said.

Mr Jordan Naidoo, Senior Education Advisor at UNICEF, presented the challenges facing the region: Education for Migrants and Refugees, the Economic Crisis and thus Education  is being left behind by indebted governments and as a subject that concerns us as EFIL ambassadors –Global Citizenship– within the context of rising extreme right values throughout Europe.

Keeping this in mind, the future is something we must take into consideration. The fact that we see ourselves in a rapidly evolving world, makes us question the outcomes or the influential variables that these goals might suffer throughout the next years. Therefore, it is necessary to make a review process based on regular, voluntary and inclusive evaluation to provide a regional overview and advise on the intermediate decision making process.

SDG 4 is a complementary to the following goals:

  • SDG 1: Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.
  • SDG 9: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

The SDG Education Steering Committee is there to:

  • Review progress along with indicators
  • Monitoring and advocating for better financing and education
  • All education targets
  • One universal SDG agenda we are all committed to
  • Steering committee members represent the Education community
  • Focus on where can we make a difference
  • Accountability
  • Develop indicators that can show the progress

The committee’s expectations, first and foremost, is to be a key actor in the decision making process at national level and at regional level with multilateral institutions such as the OECD and the Council of Europe. Furthermore, it is to improve and implement the eleven indicators they have established for the achievement of this goals (to go further:  page 6: SDG 4 Indicators list)

In the following sessions, delegations representing U Member States have intervened and stated their opinions.

During the first breakout session, Arleen assisted the Quality of Education: there, she got the opportunity to take the floor and talk about youth concerns and the fact that many students get a diplomam, although not being prepared to enter the labour market.

Arleen is annoyed by what her generation is going through and asked ‘how much is the impact of these policies at a national level? “Labour market demand from us creativity, innovation, to think “outside the box” but what we are facing each day is a time constraint which limit us to expand our learning through different opportunities, and only learn by heart what we are being taught (the same as my parents did)”. At the same time, Arleen feels grateful to have access to education and opportunities such as the ones offered by AFS and EFIL. The question is how to democratise opportunities such as this one, namely representing an NGO at such an important meeting during school time.

unesco_arleen

The second breakout session was about indicators and every one of them seemed very subjective. UNESCO might get quite some criticism, but it needs to be recognised that this institution manages very delicate issues such as measuring education, considering factors that influencing each culture, each system and that a mathematical formula might not be enough to measure all of this. On the another hand, let’s use the example of UNICEF: measuring a vaccination programme in a country and counting how many people are sick, malnourished or premature are just questions on a survey and no one needs to be a genius to make these statistics.

To conclude, UNESCO as a supranational institution does not have the right to obligate member states but only to recommend these policies. Therefore, their principal interest is to make programmes and statistical studies (and much more evidently) to guide the world onto a good path. They are aware that these goals are too ambitious to be achieved by 2030, they are also aware of the fact that they do not have a direct power on behalf of nations, they respect their sovereignty and they are mainly an open space to debate these issues and conclude to do something relative to their current and proper situations. This is what SDG were created for, the main difference between them and the Millenium develoment Goals (the previous UN goals) is that these last were orientated to the third- and developing world while the Sustainable Development Goals are created for everyone.

For more information: elisa.briga@afs.org