Cablegate: Forum for the Future: Ministerial Session On

Published: Mon 14 Nov 2005 10:10 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (U) November 12, 2005; 11:00 a.m., Manama, Bahrain.
Kirk Wolcott (notetaker)
2. (U) SUMMARY. One of two main components of the second
BMENA Forum for the Future, held November 12 in Bahrain,
centered on the continuing need to promote knowledge and
education throughout the region (the second theme on civil
society to be covered septel). During the session,
representatives from the G8 and the countries of the Broader
Middle East and North Africa (BMENA), as well as
international organizations and civil society groups,
reviewed progress on education initiatives undertaken since
last December's inaugural Forum in Morocco. Canada announced
its intention to contribute $50 million Canadian ($42 million
U.S.) to regional reform efforts, including on education,
while the European Commission proposed to make education one
of its key priorities in the region. Participants covered
four broad areas, including the Education Framework for
Action, literacy acquisition, vocational training, and the
Entrepreneurship Centers planned for Bahrain and Morocco. END
Education Framework for Action
3. (U) Jordan opened the meeting by noting progress made on
the Education Framework for Action strategy developed at the
May 2005 Dead Sea Ministerial, and calling for additional
workshops around the themes of technology, improved teaching
standards, and entrepreneurship. Egypt announced it will
host a preparatory meeting in Cairo in February, in advance
of the next Ministerial scheduled for May in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Noting that civil society has an increasing role to play in
educational development across the region, Spain announced
that it will contribute $1 million to the newly-created
Foundation for the Future to assist in this effort.
4. (U) The European Commission said it too will contribute
to the Foundation and plans to make education a key priority
among its reform efforts. The EC proposed to significantly
increase funding for education and vocational training
systems so that more BMENA governments can upgrade their
education programs. Ahead of the Sharm el-Sheikh
Ministerial, the EC plans to sponsor an international
conference on education and professional standards toward the
goal of providing quality education for all citizens across
the region. The Secretary General of the GCC said that peace
and stability can only be achieved through education and
training, noting that firm political will is necessary to
ensure such a development takes place. During the later
session on civil society, France asked that the other
delegates consider the inclusion of cultural diversity in
future BMENA discussions on education, a call that was echoed
by Russia during the Forum's closing session.
Literacy Acquisition
5. (U) Algeria provided an update on the April meeting on
literacy it hosted with Afghanistan, reiterating the call to
train 100,000 teachers across the region to provide reading
skills for 20 million students by 2015. Toward this end,
Algeria proposed the establishment of a regional center to
monitor literacy rates, which it also offered to help
finance. Afghanistan described recent gains it made in
education through its national action plan and stated that
the purpose of promoting education in the country is to
strengthen the foundation for democracy. Canada announced
that it intends to contribute an additional $50 million
Canadian ($42 million U.S.) through the Canadian
International Assistance Agency toward promoting reform in
the region in three areas: the private sector, improved
governance, and basic education. In addition to the Literacy
Initiative it already supports, Canada will contribute toward
improving high quality education for all citizens as a means
of decreasing the "knowledge deficit" seen in most countries
in the region.
Vocational Training
6. (U) Japan provided information from the conference it
co-sponsored with Jordan in September, in which more than 100
representatives from 30 countries and international
organizations examined ways to improve technical and
vocational education and training (TVET) practices in the
region. Participants at a TVET task force meeting held
November 11 agreed to establish new mechanisms for promoting
youth employment, with an emphasis on education for women and
girls. The next task force meeting will be held in early
2006, with Egypt and Germany as co-sponsors. Jordan said
that the TVET group is now studying ways to build up
cooperative models to strengthen education systems, which
would include a greater emphasis on public-private
partnerships. As a next step, Jordan announced the launch of
a database for training centers in the BMENA region to allow
for easier cooperation with the EU, UNESCO, and other
interested parties. Tunisia spoke about its National Fund for
Employment, which has helped 350,000 Tunisians find jobs, and
the Tunisian Solidarity Bank, which has granted some 120,000
micro-credits, as examples of success that might be emulated
in other countries.
Entrepreneurship Centers
7. (U) Bahrain reported on developments in its Center for
Excellence, one of two Entrepreneurship Centers to have been
established following the first Forum last year in Rabat (the
second is planned for Morocco). The Bahraini representative
said that its center remains in the "teething stage," with a
site for the institute having been identified and most of the
administrative preparations completed. The first group of
students will begin courses in December, to include seminars
and workshops designed to increase the competitiveness of
young business people in the global economy. Meanwhile,
Morocco is still seeking funding before it launches its
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