Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10 – the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Arab education coalitions celebrated this occasion with more excitement this year due to the election of Refat Sabbah, the General Secretary of the Arab Campaign for Education for All (ACEA) to the position of President in the Global Campaign for Education (GCE).
Following the recently concluded GCE World Assembly, held in Kathmandu, Nepal, from November 13 to 18th, under the theme of “Transforming Public Education Systems for Equality, Inclusion, and Justice”, Arab coalitions have great hopes for 2019.
There is a lot to celebrate, although huge challenges remain ahead. During their strategic planning meeting also held in Nepal, Arab coalitions agreed on the need for a stronger “transformative” approach to advocacy.
Coalitions discussed how they can collectively address the increasing challenges they face, such as the shrinking space for civil society to operate, dwindling domestic budgets for education, and of course, the escalating and widespread conflicts in the region.
A key mechanism to strengthen advocacy
One key mechanism through which ACEA’s advocacy and impact could be strengthened is through using existing international tools and platforms for advocacy such as the Voluntary National Review (VNR), where member organizations can make a difference by presenting their own assessment on the status of education within their countries.
For this purpose, ACEA supports its coalitions to actively engage in this process. The newly formed Tunisian Education Coalition spearheads this work by hosting the first capacity building event for Arab education coalitions engaged in the VNR process.
The Tunisian coalition also plans to prepare a shadow report on SDG 4 and will attend the VNR presentation to be held in New York in 2019. There will be an organized and large-scale media campaign to raise public awareness on where education stands in Tunisia.
“Ask the Government”
On the occasion of Human Rights Day, the Palestinian Education Coalition launched a campaign titled “Ask the Government”, which focuses on social accountability to education and encourages the general public, including parents and students, to find out more about the status of education in their local context and to hold their government accountable to SDG 4.
The activities of the campaign will cover many Palestinian cities and rural areas. An online platform was designed to enable the general population to ask their government questions on education services and budget. The campaign will end with a public event where the government will respond to citizen’s questions.
ACEA will be working throughout 2019 on getting a renewed political commitment towards SDG 4 as an opportunity to ensure strong coherence between education policy and the right to education. The advocacy work of Arab coalitions will demand that immediate and sustained action and financial investment go hand-in-hand, particularly in countries affected by conflict.
Education coalitions in the region are united in consensus that a rights-based approach is the best hope to achieve SDG 4 and deliver on the promise of education.