Shaping the Multilateralism
We Need

From climate change to global health emergencies, passing by the techno-digital divide and financing for education, the importance of concerted multilateral action in addressing the great issues of the 21st century is beyond dispute.

Governments aiming to build equitable, inclusive, and effective education systems face serious challenges –calling for considerable investment of technical and financial resources, in addition to political commitment, over the medium and long term. Essential tools to achieve such goals and pool such resources are international platforms of cooperation amongst countries.

Article XIV of the Universal Declaration of Balanced and Inclusive Education (UDBIE), in fact, not only affirms that “Humanity shares a collective, inextricable destiny”, but it also upholds the right of “all nations to benefit from true solidarity and equitable cooperation”, which naturally translates into “the principle of a mutually beneficial partnership of equals” that “acknowledges, respects, and abides by national priorities and local realities.” This particular approach to multilateralism carries within it three fundamental concepts:

  • Multilateralism is not merely an opportunistic choice, but rather an unavoidable necessity due to the indivisible nature of the ultimate, fundamental interests of the collective that is Humanity;
  • Not all forms of multilateralism are created equal, since the dynamics of multilateralism, unless conceived within a framework of equality (of parties), equity (in relations), and solidarity (rather than charity), will simply reproduce the very imbalances, injustices, and instabilities they purport to rectify and address;
  • Multilateralism does not entail a disappearance of the national and local dimensions of development nor of the respective priorities and contexts of countries –on the contrary, the spirit of the UDBIE advocates the view that true universality emanates from and is built through the respectful and enriching encounter of the world’s particularities.

From its unambiguous, affirmative stance, the UDBIE identifies profound limitations to the predominant conception of multilateralism. These underlying flaws of current multilateral frameworks have most recently been illustrated by the failure of the international system to effectively ensure an equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and of the liquidity injected to assist countries in mitigating the dire consequences of the crisis.

As such, there is a pressing need to address the inefficiencies and the inflexibility of multilateral cooperation frameworks, that must be repurposed and revitalised in the complexifying context of the 21st century. This demands the placing of the concerns, needs, and aspirations of countries and peoples at the centre of global policymaking and at the forefront of development efforts, whilst always respecting and adapting to respective national priorities, local aspirations, and socio-cultural contexts.

One major concern permeating the Global South, lying at the heart of policymaking, is the issue of securing the financing that is necessary for development, and which is intimately linked to the issue of unsustainable, rising external public debt burdens. Exacerbated by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, the issue of debt, in particular, and financing, in general, have become central to the agenda of countries of the Global South as they combat the economic consequences of COVID-19 –from calls for the full relief of debt to the more equitable redistribution of the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) issued by the IMF in August 2021.

This indissoluble relation between multilateralism, education, development, and financing is recognised in Article XV of the UDBIE through the commitment to “create mechanisms of coordinated educational financing and solidarity which abide by national priorities, adapt to local realities, assist in achieving debt relief, and facilitate budgetary increases for education” as a means to ensure “the unalienable right of all peoples and nations to benefit from prosperous, humane, equitable, and sustainable development, of which education is the initiating spark.”

With this particular  conception  of multilateralism and the affirmation of the right to material and immaterial security, the UDBIE promotes a profound paradigmatic and epistemological shift to enable the realisation of the vision which it contains. Recognising, in Article XV, that the “Global South is constituted of vastly diverse countries, peoples, and cultures who simultaneously share systemic characteristics, challenges, and aspirations”, it advocates for them “to collectively construct and espouse a third, alternative, inclusive way of development emerging through and from education, founded upon the spirit of multilateralism, solidarity, and self- determination.”

Within its first biennium, the OSC will support its Member States in mitigating the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis and in achieving their common aspirations for development through education, by establishing a Transregional Partnership in Education for Development (TPED) to strengthen and streamline coordination amongst intergovernmental organisations in education, establishing a Common Leveraging Union of Borrowers (CLUB) and a sustainable Public-Private Partnership evaluation framework –as collective mechanisms to achieve debt relief and secure more favourable financing terms for development–, and convening a Congress of the Greater South to collectively define and articulate a common, cross-sectoral, multi-stakeholder roadmap and action plan for the construction of a “Third, alternative, inclusive Way of Development.”

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