Fifty years have passed since Qatar joined the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) on Jan 27, 1972, during which the two parties worked together to strengthen their partnerships locally and internationally in all fields concerned with education and its quality, and in the various fields of work of the Unesco concerned with education, cultural, science, communication, media, sustainable development sectors and others.
Qatar's orientation towards consolidating a culture of peace and dialogue through education, culture and heritage at the global level has strengthened building successful partnerships with the Unesco, which was established with the aim of promoting the principles of lasting peace through the fields of education and culture, and to be a factory of ideas and a platform for dialogue of different cultures and common understanding through its various sectors.
The unlimited support that Qatar has provided to the organisation over the past 50 years, in its various fields of work, has certainly contributed to the implementation of many cultural, scientific, humanitarian, development activities and initiatives that it launched, translating a common message in a turbulent world that witnesses wars, conflicts, threats to peace and societies, cases of displacement and marginalisation, loss of education, and of millions of children around the world outside schools.
In turn, the Unesco provides various aspects of technical support to institutions concerned with science, culture and heritage in the country, within the framework of its global mission.
Speaking to Qatar News Agency (QNA), HE Qatar's Permanent Representative to the Unesco Dr Nasser bin Hamad al-Hanzab said Qatar's accession to the Unesco was based on its absolute belief in the organisation's importance in supporting sustainable development plans and consolidating international peace and security, as Qatar supports its main sectors concerned with education, culture, communication, information, science, humanities and social sciences.
HE al-Hanzab added that the co-operation between the two sides has witnessed continuous development at an increasing pace over the past 50 years at the national, regional and international levels, in many development programmes and plans which would build a better future for societies, by supporting education and preserving cultural and human heritage.
Qatar has effective mechanisms to strengthen the partnership with the Unesco, including the Qatar National Commission for Education, Culture and Science which was established in 1962, and which plays an active role in achieving the goals of international organisations, including the Unesco, which are consistent with the objectives of education in Qatar on the one hand, and with the objectives of the commission on the other hand, through the implementation of many of its programmes, projects and activities in various fields, aiming to promote citizenship, human rights, justice and human dignity.
In this regard, the Unesco Associated Schools Network in Qatar plays a distinguished role in terms of responding to the basic principles set out in its founding charter: "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed."
Qatar joined the membership of the Unesco Associated Schools Network in 1983 with one school — Doha Secondary School for Boys.
In 1989, more secondary and preparatory schools for boys and girls joined, bringing the number of Qatari schools joining the Network so far to 80 schools for boys and girls in the three educational stages (primary, preparatory and secondary).Through joining Unesco Associated Schools Network, Qatar aims to increase students knowledge of global issues and educate them on ideals and on the importance of international co-operation and understanding, in addition to informing them about the cultures of other people, enhancing understanding and respect for human rights and principles, and promoting communication and the exchange of information and experiences with affiliated schools worldwide.
Qatar National Commission for Education, Culture and Science co-operates with the Unesco in many initiatives and projects that serve the objectives of both sides at all levels, especially at the local level, by enabling and supporting governmental and non-governmental institutions and agencies to make optimal use of the programmes and activities offered by the Unesco and other similar organisations.
Education remains one of the most important fields in the world, ranks fourth in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030, and one of the fields to consolidate and spread a culture of international peace and security; therefore, it was one of the most important areas of partnership between Qatar and the Unesco at the global level.
Qatar spares no effort to support and strengthen the international and regional efforts to contribute to increasing educational opportunities in all parts of the world, especially in conditions of armed conflicts and insecurity.
Al-Hanzab affirmed that Qatar is at the forefront of countries supporting the Unesco at all levels, noting: "Since 1976, the State of Qatar has supported the Unesco's efforts and programmes at the regional level in the Gulf states and Yemen, through its continuous support to the Unesco Regional Office in Doha, where it provides all possibilities to achieve the strategic goals of the organisation, especially in the education and culture sectors."
"There is no doubt that the Unesco Regional Office in Doha plays a key role in implementing the organisation's strategic programmes and plans in the Gulf region and Yemen; and there is continuous support and co-operation represented by Qatar National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, and the relevant committees in the region."
On Qatar's support for the Unesco Regional Office, HE Adviser to the Minister of Education and Higher Education and former Qatar delegate to Unesco, Ali Zainal, affirmed to QNA that Qatar has spared no effort in supporting this important office with the budget necessary for operation and implementation of programmes since its establishment before nearly half a century.
Even recently, the State raised the value of this support to enhance the Office's programmes and objectives in the Gulf region and Yemen.
The Unesco Regional Office in Doha is one model of partnership and co-operation between Qatar and the Unesco.
This partnership covers other regions of the world through projects, programmes and initiatives in many countries; and extends to the sectors of education, culture, heritage, cultural communication, and confronts extremism and violence through education, which has attracted the interest of both parties especially during the last two decades.
Undoubtedly, Qatar's commitment to education, which is at the heart of Unesco's interests, has no limits.
This is evident through the support provided by the State to develop and modernise education locally, in accordance with the highest international standards.
This commitment is also demonstrated internationally through qualitative initiatives and projects, such as the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), Educate A Child and Education Above All, which provided the opportunity for more than 10mn boys and girls to enrol in education in the most fragile and marginalised areas in the world, especially in conflict areas.
The year 2003 represented an important turning point for the partnership between the two sides with the appointment of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser as Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education at Unesco, in recognition and appreciation of Her Highness' clear efforts in supporting education at the global level, through the global initiatives launched by Her Highness in the education sector, such as the Education Above All Foundation which has covered more than 55 countries around the world.
HE al-Hanzab explained that the Education Above All Foundation and its affiliated programmes, with the support of Qatar Fund for Development, plays an effective role in achieving the Unesco's strategic goals in the field of education at the global level.
For his part, Ali Zainal said Qatar is one of the distinguished countries in supporting the Unesco programmes and projects.
This support expanded remarkably after 2003 in light of the initiatives and programmes launched by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser in the fields of education and higher education; in addition to the support provided through Qatar Fund for Development, which undertakes the implementation of Qatar's projects in brotherly and friendly countries, with international and regional organisations.
There are dozens of joint regional and international educational projects implemented by Qatar through its various institutions.
In Iraq, work has begun since 2018 on a project aimed at improving access to quality and comprehensive education with gender equality for about 150,000 children.
Earlier in 2017, Qatar implemented a project to provide an opportunity for quality education for primary school children, targeting about 75,000 children, through the Education Above All Foundation, in partnership with the Unesco.
The Education Above All Foundation also continues its efforts in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam and East Timor to provide educational opportunities for more than 50,000 out-of-school children.
Qatar is among the first countries to co-operate with the Unesco to support education in Lebanon through the initiative of Qatar Fund for Development and the Education Above All Foundation to build damaged schools and to put the educational process back on track in the wake of the Beirut Port explosion in August 2020.
The efforts of Qatar were not limited to financial support for the education sectors around the world, but it is making parallel efforts to remind the world of the seriousness of threats and attacks that affect educational institutions in conflict areas, and which deprives millions of the right to education.
The Qatari diplomacy succeeded in convincing the world of the need to take measures to protect this right in emergency times.
In June 2020, the United Nations adopted Qatar's proposal in this regard and declared the International Day to Protect Education from Attack, which falls on September 9 of each year.
This resolution affirms the right to education for all and the importance of ensuring safe and enabling learning environments in humanitarian emergencies, which is consistent with the strategies and objectives of the Unesco.
To follow up and reinforce these efforts, the Education Above All Foundation organised on September 9, 2021, in the presence of Director-General of Unesco Audrey Azoulay, an important meeting to discuss mechanisms for protecting education in times of conflict.
Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser launched a joint project between the Education Above All Foundation and the Unesco aimed to develop monitoring mechanisms for attacks on education and to collect data proving the occurrence of these attacks.
Meanwhile, Qatar contributes to the initiative to reject violence through education, a programme established by the Unesco with the aim of issuing guide publications directed at countries, clarifying ways to combat violence of all kinds through school and educational curricula, and through children's entertainment programmes
Qatar's support for Unesco in this field continues. Recently, Qatar provided an important support to the organisation to organise the high-level ministerial conference on addressing and countering hate speech through education, which was held in Paris in October 2021.
In a statement to QNA, Nasser al-Hanzab confirmed that this support came within the framework of Qatar's support for the international efforts aimed at combating hatred and promoting peace and coexistence among people of different cultures and religions.
Qatar's initiatives with the Unesco were not limited to the field of education, they have extended to other areas of common interest, such as press freedoms, heritage preservation, cultural projects and initiatives, aiming to achieve the common goal of making culture an integral part of development and a bridge for communication and civilised dialogue among people.
Ali Zainal said in his statement that Qatar was the first Arab country to host the World Press Freedom Day symposium in May 1999, which was organised in co-operation with Unesco with wide Arab participation, in an indication of the extension of the partnerships between the two sides, and that their partnership is not limited to a specific field, stemming from Qatar's belief in the important role of this organisation.
In the field of heritage, which is the memory of peoples and an important part of their history, Qatar has had an effective contribution to strengthening Unesco's efforts in this field.
In recognition of this effort, Qatar has been nominated to host the meetings of the World Heritage Committee, which is one of the important committees in the Unesco concerned with registering archaeological sites on the World Heritage List in 2014.
HE Chairperson of Qatar Museums Board of Trustees Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad al-Thani chaired the works of the committee which lasted for 11 days. During the meetings, Qatar announced a $10mn support for the World Heritage Emergency Fund, to become the first donor to this fund.
Among other important joint projects between Qatar and the Unesco in the field of heritage preservation, Ali Zainal highlighted was the project to rebuild the ancient city of Mosul in Iraq — an initiative launched by the organisation and supported by Qatar with other international parties.
Ali Zainal noted another important project that Qatar supports annually, is the African Week at Unesco, which is organised by the African Group at the organisation and the Arab countries in Africa. This week highlights the cultures of these countries and their rich ethnic diversity, as well as the handicrafts of all African countries.
HE Nasser al-Hanzab has stated that Qatar's support for Unesco's efforts in the field of preserving and protecting world heritage is not new, noting that the world still remembers Qatar's hosting of an international symposium for the Unesco entitled "Islam and Cultural Heritage" in December 2001, in partnership with the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Isesco) and the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (Alecso). The event was attended by ministers of culture in the Islamic countries, scholars, Muslim jurists and officials of regional and international organisations concerned with heritage.
He pointed out that the symposium came out with the Doha Declaration, which was published in three languages (Arabic, French and English), and stipulates the importance of human cultural heritage and its preservation, as well as the opinion of Muslim jurists on the issue of destroying cultural heritage.
Recently, Qatar National Library announced the conclusion of a joint co-operation agreement with Unesco to implement a project entitled "Supporting Documentary Heritage Libraries in the Arab Region", which enhances the role of the two parties in preserving the rich cultural heritage found in libraries throughout the Arab region and is of great importance at the world level.
The project aims to protect the history, identity and types of knowledge in the Arab region by preserving its documentary heritage, which is currently threatened with extinction and loss as a result of neglect, natural deterioration, or the use of non-modern techniques in preserving documentary heritage, or preserving it in inappropriate places, or due to intentional damage and destruction.
Over 50 years, the relationship between Qatar and the Unesco has been characterised by close co-operation in various fields related to the organisation's work — education, culture and heritage.
This relationship has extended to establishing important global partnerships that serve the organisations goals in the world, and translates into an important aspect of Qatar's international commitments to serve the wellbeing of the people, guaranteeing their rights to education, preserving their material and moral heritage, safeguarding their freedoms, and promoting the sustainable development goals, to reach a prosperous world that enjoys justice, stability and peace.
The two sides look forward to consolidating this close and distinguished co-operation in the coming years, in their quest to support peacebuilding efforts and initiatives, maximise the value of science and culture, preserve heritage, and respond to other issues of interest to societies that fall within the agenda of work and tasks of the two sides, as well as continuing to build bridges of peace-loving between all civilisations.