Solidarity, joint action, climate education, and human rights were amongst the headline topics addressed at Education International’s Development Cooperation Network.
From 2-3 March, more than 150 participants from 60 Education International member organisations in 43 countries, gathered under the theme “Union Solidarity in Action. Strong in times of Crisis”. The meeting heard encouraging stories of union solidarity in action through a year of crisis and addressed needs and plans for the future.
Solidarity to achieve objectives
While the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way unions and the Development Cooperation Network work together, “solidarity has not stopped,” said Education International’s Deputy General Secretary, Haldis Holst. Solidarity will remain, she said, “no matter what the situation after the COVID-19 outbreak will look like”.
Holst stressed the importance of joint action to overcome the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, since the pandemic had deepened already pre-existing challenges. She also underlined EI’s campaign to provide educators with vaccines as frontline workers. Joint action could also advance achievement of the political objectives adopted by Education International at its 2019 World Congress.
Climate change priority
She also highlighted how climate education is one of Education International’s additional priorities. “The 26th UN Climate Change Conference in November 2021 in Scotland will have a special focus on climate education and Education International will launch a climate campaign on Earth Day in April 2021, with a capacity building component.”
Trade union and human rights priority
Holst also condemned increasing attacks on trade union and human rights around the globe. Mentioning the example of Myanmar, she explained that the “state of emergency opens the door to authoritarian rulers. We need to stand together to show solidarity and share the most precious assets we have: people, people with experience and knowledge”.
She concluded by encouraging participants to discuss “how we can collectively support each other and stand together to build capacity and solidarity”.
Education International’s COVID-19 Response Fund
On the first day of the Network, debates focused on “Taking stock of actions in 2020”. Participants heard about the impact of actions undertaken thanks to the Education International’s Solidarity Fund – established to assist member organisations in emergencies such as natural disasters, famine, war, persecution, or other life-threatening situations.
Participants also underlined how Education International’s COVID-19 Response Fund had helped educators worldwide to mitigate the impact of the pandemic in their communities and strengthened their unions. This special fund was established to assist member organisations in times of COVID-19 and receives contributions from affiliates. In total, 26 Education International affiliates had contributed to the fund, and 26 were assisted.
The tangible support brought to education unions via the COVID-19 Response Fund had four key components: visibility, capacity, social dialogue, and gender dimension.
Education International’s regional offices also reported on their actions and plans of action in terms of development cooperation.
Together, we are stronger!
On the second day, 3 March, participants addressed issues around the theme, “Stronger together. Building synergies for better results in 2021”.
They drafted plans and priorities for 2021 and focused on joint actions covering three areas: capacity building; communications, strengthening of the network; and solidarity actions.
Follow-up meetings with participants will be held to continue this work thematically and regionally.