Highlighting the Key Role of Language at the Unesco 2020 Meeting in Hammamet

Dr. Oliver Winkler, AILA UNESCO delegate, 2019-12-20

In November last year, AILA accepted an invitation from UNESCO to attend the 9th Global Meeting of the CCNGO-Education 2030 (Collective Consultation of NGOs on Education) in Hammamet, Tunisia, from 2 to 4 December 2019. The meeting was co-hosted by the Global Campaign for Education (GCE), a civil society movement promoting and defending the right to education at the international, national and regional levels.

The theme of the global meeting – Educating for an inclusive and sustainable future – saw representatives of regional, national and international non-governmental and civil society organizations (CSOs) gather to address pertinent issues. The role of civil society and its engagement in supporting equity and inclusion in the context of SDG4-Education 2030 formed the centerpiece of the discussion.

In the meeting, representatives of CSOs from around the world reflected on recent activities, challenges and opportunities on the path towards reaching SDG4 2030. The conference encompassed plenary sessions and parallel panels with speakers representing both CSOs and UNESCO. While the plenary sessions provided a global update on progress and challenges pertaining to SDG4, the parallel sessions dealt with topics such as influencing legislation, ensuring quality and inclusion as well as the facilitation of lifelong learning.

The two-day conference resulted in an official Outcome Statement, which will be published on the UNESCO website. The Outcome Statement concludes that:

the world is not on track to meet its commitments on SDG4-Education 2030 and in particular to deliver on its promise of inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

On the contrary, the current situation is characterized as:

“an education crisis, fueled by lack of political will, low prioritization of education and inadequate financing as well as a rising trend in education commercialization, contributing to increasing inequality.
As we enter the last decade of SDG realization, we reaffirm our commitment to the right to education through collective action across all continents. We furthermore commit to strengthen partnership between education stakeholders, other social sectors, the media and the broader community to promote inclusion and equity. We commit to building civil society capacities, including to engage other stakeholders more effectively and to collect and analyze evidence-based data on the most marginalized groups.”

While striving towards SDG4, in particular towards developing and ensuring inclusion in education, one should not overlook the crucial role of language. Policymaking, advocacy and the development of curricula and pedagogical practices alike are closely intertwined with language. Questions of language use, language policy, linguistic diversity, media and the freedom of speech and intercultural communication are a case in point.

As a genuine transdisciplinary field and/or discipline of research and practice dealing with practical problems concerning language and communication, Applied Linguistics, along with its worldwide organization AILA, can have an impact, not only by pointing out relevant fields and problems where language matters, but also by collaborating with other organizations on finding solutions to promote and ensure education for all.