Education International’s Social and Policy Dialogue Forum, held in Accra, Ghana, on 8-9 May, served to support stronger social and policy dialogue in Africa, where mechanisms for social and policy dialogue are often either weak or non-existent. Significantly, the participants signed the Accra Declaration, which highlights the need for and benefits of social and policy dialogue
Effective social and policy dialogue are fundamental to improving education policies. When teachers, education support personnel and educational authorities cooperate meaningfully and share their expertise to identify solutions to the problems our education systems are experiencing, we are more likely to succeed in achieving quality education for all.
The forum created a space for representatives of education sector unions, Ministries of Education and education stakeholders from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi and Uganda to come together. They learned from each other’s experiences, shared ideas on promoting effective collaboration, and discussed how to implement more effective mechanisms for dialogue in their respective countries.
The gathering is one component of the Norwegian Teacher Initiative(NTI) and was attended by international partners. These included representatives from the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), IICBA and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Representatives from Education International (EI) and its member organisations, Lärarförbundet (Sweden) and Centrale Syndicale du Québec (Quebec).
During the forum, Haldis Holst, EI’s deputy general secretary, underscored the importance of social dialogue. Speaking from her experience as a former teacher in Norway, she reminded participants that respectful and trusting dialogue and the inclusion of teachers in decision-making processes is vital not just at national level, but within schools, at local, district, regional and national levels in decentralised contexts, and at the international level. She also emphasised that unions were moving towards a proactive approach of conflict resolution which, if embraced by governments, would be more beneficial in the long run.
All other dignitaries representing various technical and funding partners urged participants to embrace social and policy dialogue as a critical ingredient to cooperation on improving teacher-related policies and eventual better learning outcomes.
Through in-depth, productive discussions, participants from each country came to shared understandings of the conditions, forms and models of social dialogue and the opportunities for social dialogue available at various levels in their countries. They considered the strengths and weaknesses of the current mechanisms for social dialogue, debated how the mechanisms could best be improved, and finally made decisions on clear, tangible steps that can be taken to sustainably improve social dialogue in their countries through the NTI framework and in the longer term. The forum concluded that, currently, social and policy dialogue is only instituted when there are challenges. However, there is a need for more institutionalised approach which is more preventive than curative.
Recommendations for action in the short term included:
- Establishing representative task teams to oversee the implementation of strategies to improve social dialogue mechanisms.
- Building the capacity of both education sector unions and government representatives to engage in constructive social dialogue.
- Ensuring that funds are allocated specifically for facilitating social dialogue.
- Formulating advocacy strategies to sensitise key actors to the importance of social dialogue.
The workshop concluded with the adoption and signing of the Accra Declaration. The declaration recognises the benefits of improved social dialogue in the education sector for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4, recalls the ILO/UNESCO 1966 and 1997 Recommendations on the Status of Teachers and higher education personnel, and underlines the importance of structured social dialogue based on autonomy and good faith. It commits participants to push for enhanced social and policy dialogue with their governments and to take all steps within their power to ensure that the roadmap of actions for strengthened social and policy dialogue defined within the forum are carried out.