Participants in the virtual meeting for ICESCO National Commissions for Education, Science and Culture, held yesterday by the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO), under the theme “COVID-19 and post-Crisis Period: What Priorities, What Actions for Education, Science and Culture?”, reaffirmed the importance of the transition from addressing the COVID-19 crisis to anticipating and preparing for a post-crisis world.
The meeting, which was opened by the Director-General, Dr. Salim M. AlMalik, saw the participation of Princess Doaa Bint Mohammad Ezzat, Supreme Head of the Arab Women Foundation and Peace Ambassador for Children and Young People at the United Nations; and the renowned scientist, Prof. Rachid Yazami, inventor of the Lithium-Ion battery, as guests of honor. The meeting also brought together the respective representatives of 56 countries inside and outside the Islamic world, and a host of experts and specialists in the sectors of education, science, and culture.
Participants in this meeting reviewed the measures taken by several countries to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the fields of education, science, culture; and discussed the foresight of the post-COVID-19 world and the steps to be taken thereafter.
At the outset, ICESCO Director-General stressed that the question of “What after the Coronavirus?” is at the core of ICESCO’s interests and priorities, stating that this meeting is an opportunity to exchange expertise and share experiences and good practices as it meets the expectations of ICESCO Member States in making the transition from the mindset of addressing the crisis to that of anticipating the future.
Then followed Princess Doaa Bint Mohammad Ezzat, who talked about the impact of COVID-19 on children and education, maintaining that distance learning is not compatible for all, especially those who do not have access to communication technology and the Internet, which undermines the right of all children to quality education.
For his part, Prof. Rachid Yazami stated that the Islamic world constitutes about 25% of the world population, and thus must contribute with the same rate in the efforts of scientific research in the fields of the environment, water, and health, etc. He added that the Islamic world needs more than one Nobel Prize laureate, noting that there are thousands of Muslim researchers currently taking part in scientific research works on addressing COVID-19, especially those relating to finding a vaccine against this virus.
Addressing the panel next was Sheikh Khalifa Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Director of Museums and Antiquities at the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA), who reaffirmed that museums must have a certain level of resilience to face crises. Moreover, Ms. Sanaa Abouzaid, Country Manager of the International Finance Cooperation at the World Bank Group, argued that the COVID-19 pandemic was a warning to realize the vulnerability of the economic and health systems in the world;. At the same time, Mr. Youness Bensouda Mourri, Researcher and Instructor of Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University—California, stated that after the COVID-19 crisis is over, we will have better online programs for autonomous learning.
The meeting was moderated by Ms. Zineb Iraqi, Head of the General Secretariat of the National Commissions and Conferences at ICESCO, and Mr. Ali Akdim, Official in charge of National Commissions at the Secretariat. The two ICESCO officials organized the presentations and introduced the Secretaries-General of the National Commissions of ICESCO Member States. The Secretaries-General talked about their respective countries’ efforts to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the fields of education, science, and culture.
Following the statements of the National Commissions, Mr. Mohamed Hedi Shili, Director of Legal Affairs at ICESCO, presented the Concept Note of the Draft Charter of the National Commissions that the Organization is currently preparing, explaining its broad lines and drafting methodology. Dr. Kais Hammami, Director of ICESCO Center for Strategic Foresight, also talked about the anticipatory studies that the Center is conducting, including the Study of the Future of the Islamic world and another study on Africa.
Regarding the importance of setting up ICESCO Center for Heritage, Mr. Najib Rhiati, Director of the Department of Culture and Communication at the Organization, stated that the Center’s missions include the inscription of heritage sites in the Islamic world following objective and strict standards.
At the close of the meeting, Dr. Salim M. AlMalik thanked the participants for their presentations and views which enriched the discussion, underlining that ICESCO looks forward to taking concrete steps to implement the agreed-upon visions, particularly about reaffirming the partnership strategy between the Organization and the National Commissions, upgrading the mechanisms, and anticipating the future.