Education is not only a fundamental human right in itself but also enables access to all other human rights. Investing in education is the most cost-effective way towards pandemic recovery, to accelerate progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and to prevent conflict and sustain peace. The COVID-19 pandemic has made a profound impact on the right to education across the world, creating the largest disruption of education systems in history.
The Non-Aligned Movement has expressed its deep concern over the fact that 258 million children and youth remain out of school, and 773 million adults are illiterate, a significant number of whom can be found among persons with disabilities, particularly in the developing world. NAM has also expressed its deep concern that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the disruption of education systems, disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable and exacerbating pre-existing education disparities.
NAM stressed the importance of inclusive and equitable education during the Annual thematic panel discussion on technical cooperation to advance the right to education and ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all at the 47th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on July 12, 2021. Marziyya Vakilova-Mardaliyeva, First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the UN Office and other International Organizations in Geneva on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement expressed concern over the digital divide in access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools between developed and developing countries, which negatively affects the right to education.
NAM reaffirmed the importance of ensuring universal, inclusive and non-discriminatory access to information and knowledge relating to ICT and supporting national efforts in developing countries aimed at building, improving and strengthening ICT capacities, in order to transform the digital divide to digital opportunities. NAM stressed that without accelerated progress towards education for all, national and internationally agreed targets for poverty reduction would be missed, and inequalities between countries and within societies would widen.
NAM recognizes that investing in education, including human rights education, is a sure pledge for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, preventing conflict and maintaining peace. Thus, during the panel discussion, NAM emphasized that the enhancement of international cooperation aimed at strengthening the capacity of States is essential for the effective promotion and protection of human rights and implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, including SDG 4 on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.
During the panel discussion, a number of NAM Member States also spoke about their initiatives to provide inclusive education. India stated that development cooperation, especially with countries of the Global South, has been a cornerstone of the country’s foreign policy. Launched over 55 years ago, India’s Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme is a fully funded programme that has been offering technical assistance and capacity building to nearly 160 countries. Every year, India provides training and capacity building courses to around 12,000 persons for around 300 short, medium and long-term training courses. The courses are offered in a diverse range of subjects, from agriculture, management, English language to IT, Science & Technology and others. Apart from educational courses, the programme also provides for deputation of Indian experts abroad, grant projects, study tours and consultancy services. Through the recent e-ITEC initiative, training is being imparted in partner countries online in real time.
Indonesia stated that the country’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology has introduced measures to ensure learning process can continue despite the pandemic. These include online library and digital teaching material for remote learning as well as television-based classes to bridge the digital divide for children in areas with a lack of internet access.
Senegal said that its education sector policy is embodied in the Program to Improve the Quality, Equity and Transparency of education and training (PAQUET), planned for the period 2013-2025 and revised to adjust to SDG 4.
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