On 11-12 December 2019, the representatives from universities in Palestine met with the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, the Chairman of the Palestinian National Committee for Education and representatives from UNESCO Beirut and Ramallah Offices at the Caesar Hotel in Ramallah to discuss the role of Palestinian universities in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The meeting was part of a 2-day workshop facilitated by UNESCO to support universities to establish concrete actions towards achieving SDGs.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Junaid Sorosh-Wali, Officer-in-Charge, Head of Office of UNESCO National for Palestine, highlighted the challenges Palestine faces in achieving the SDGs and specifically SDG 4 which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

During his opening statements, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Dr. Mahmoud Abu Mouis, further stated that the outputs of universities are the inputs for development in Palestine and that education outputs need to be aligned with the needs of the labor market. The Minister encouraged universities to support Palestine in achieving all of the 17 SDGs.

During his presentation on SDGs and Higher Education, Dr. Anasse Bouhlal, UNESCO Beirut’s Programme Specialist for Higher Education, presented suggested actions on how universities can further support SDGs, including the development of monitoring tools to assess their progress towards meeting the SDGs. Dr. Bouhlal further acknowledged the equal access of men and women to universities, but encouraged the universities to better advance gender equality by not only focusing on access, but also on leadership opportunities and equal remuneration.

During the event, Dr. Anasse Bouhlal introduced university representatives to the process of building UNESCO Chairs at universities. The Minister and the participants have also been introduced to the process of the revision of the Regional Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees in Higher Education in the Arab Region and the Global Convention on the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications.

The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss a concrete plan of action that can serve as a catalyst for universities in Palestine to support the achievement of SDGs. The universities agreed to work collaboratively in achieving SDGs, more particularly SDG4, and to ensure alignment between the SDGs and their own strategies. They also expressed the necessity to establish synergies between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education, and requested UNESCO’s support in establishing a Higher Education Strategy and a national qualification framework to guarantee the quality of higher education and validate the certification of degrees.