The Three-Year Action Plan and Budget for the Years 2013-2015
The fast-paced changes unfolding on the Arab, Islamic and international scenes and their direct and indirect repercussions on the fields of action of organizations operating in the educational, scientific, cultural and communication areas, such as ISESCO, dictate a new visualization of this Organization’s action plan for the next three years (2013-2015), both in form and content. This new vision will ensure the interaction of this action plan and its activities with all these variables and its response, in a more precise and effective way, to the pressing needs of Member States.
The insightful and proactive dimension of the guidelines and contents of ISESCO’s Medium-Term 2010-2018 Action Plan (of which the coming 2013-2015 action plan represents the next link) has helped read the implications of all those developments, thus confirming the plan’s importance as a focal point of reference that defines ISESCO’s action in the coming years alongside the Organization’s other more constant references. These include ISESCO’s objectives as laid out in its Charter, its sectoral strategies, the decisions of its supreme constitutional bodies, its specialized ministerial conferences, the internal and external evaluation reports on the outcome of its implemented activities, programmes and projects, as well as the Ten-Year Programme of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The outcome of our analysis of the current regional and international scene, and our projections of how the situation will evolve in the coming few years, have led us at the General Directorate of ISESCO to adopt a new approach to the Organization’s Action Plan for 2013-2015 of which we have already presented the broad lines at the 32nd session of our Executive Council.
Back then, we identified within the framework of this draft action plan, two strategic objectives for ISESCO’s action in the coming three-year period.
The first one was supporting the efforts of Member States to achieve sustainable development and the second pertained to providing correct information about Islam and Muslims and addressing Islamophobia.
We committed ourselves to operating a number of modifications and corrections to methodology and contents in comparison with the lapsing 2010-2012 three-year action plan.
Such amendments would enable us to better respond to the development needs of Member States in the next three years in education, science, culture and communication, in line with the first strategic objective, and to interact positively with regional and international changes and the challenges of globalization within the framework of our own specificity and our social, cultural and civilizational values in such a way as to enhance the true and radiant image of Islam and the Islamic civilization, as dictated by the second strategic objective. At the forefront of our obligations under the new Action Plan is choosing a limited number of priorities, axes and fields of action. This should enable ISESCO to intensify and totally focus its efforts on coping with the rapidly unfolding changes and addressing the educational, scientific, cultural and communication challenges inherent to these changes, and to achieve the desired results on the ground as opposed to scattering efforts on multiple fronts, a situation that often leads to modest results and a poor effect.
All relevant directorates and departments at ISESCO have endeavored to adhere to this new approach and, after study and discussions, each has selected two, or at the most three, sectoral priorities. The same principle was applied in identifying the axes stemming from those priorities.
Thus, the axes were limited in number and took the shape of projects that spelt out the specific objectives, the outcome, the targeted beneficiaries and the cooperating parties. These activities and programmes were also complementary in genre and contents and staggered chronologically from the first to the third year of the Action Plan, a configuration that can only enhance their effectiveness and their impact on the ground.
For the Directorate of Education, and given the commitment of the international community, including the Islamic world, to fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals related to education and literacy by 2015, action will be focused on two sectoral priorities only: namely, developing the Member States’ educational systems, and strengthening the role of education in addressing sustainable development issues. This will translate into three axes for the first sectoral priority: namely, ensuring universal access to basic education, achieving quality education, and developing higher education competitiveness, and into axes two for the second sectoral priority: environmental, health and population education, and education on universally shared values.
For the Directorate of Science, and since its structure covers the sectors of humanities and social sciences, three sectoral priorities were identified: reinforcing scientific and technological capacities for the achievement of development, preserving the biosphere, and harnessing human and social sciences for fostering social peace. Three axes were identified for the first sectoral priority: namely, re-innovating science policies and governance, reinforcing technology capacities, and enculturation of quality in science education. For the second priority, the following two axes were set: conservation and sustainable utilization of natural resources, and mitigating environment risk and disaster management.
In the third sectoral priority, two axes were determined: namely, enhancing social cohesion, and ameliorating the quality of life. Moreover, ISESCO Center for Promotion of Scientific Research (ICPSR) was brought to bear, through its programmes, in achieving the first strategic objective outlined for the action plan: namely, supporting the efforts of Member States to achieve sustainable development.
At the Directorate of Culture and Communication, two sectoral priorities were identified in the field of culture. These were: cultural exchange and cultural diversity at the service of dialogue, peace and stability, and culture and heritage as both a tool for social integration and an economic value. The two axes stemming from the first sectoral priority are: dialogue of cultures, civilizations and followers of religions, and cultural diversity and linguistic and doctrinal pluralism. Three axes were identified for the second sectoral priority and are: participatory approach to heritage, role of cultural production and traditional knowledge in development, and culture for all. The third priority, in the area of communication, was given to building the information and knowledge society and addressing mutual stereotypes. Out of this priority, three axes were developed and dealt with: supporting freedom of expression and generalizing access to and use of information, building up capacities of information and communication professionals, and addressing mutual media stereotypes.
True to our commitment, we have also strengthened our planning approach, building it around adopting projects as opposed to scattered small-scale activities, by incorporating in the new action plan a set of sector-based projects that complement the major programmes common to all sectors. These sectoral projects are either covered within the regular budget or by extra-budgetary resources secured through the cooperation programmes concluded with partner organizations. There are also five major inter-sector programmes: the first one dealing with children, women, the youth and special need categories, the second with environment, health and population issues, the third with educational and cultural work for Muslims outside the Islamic world, the fourth with providing correct information about Islam and Muslims, and the fifth with higher education and scientific research. The office of the Deputy Director General will carry out the necessary coordination between the directorates and relevant authorities to ensure the integrated treatment of their respective issues and guarantee the desired impact on the ground of the activities carried out within this framework.
In a bid to enhance ISESCO’s permanent duties, in its being a house of expertise, an incubator of thoughts and concepts and an entity for capacity-building and policy guidance in Member States in education, science, culture and communication; and true to our avowed commitment to increase the number of regional and sub-regional training programmes and meetings of experts, to prepare studies, reports and guidebooks to provide more academic and practical reference documents and working tools to researchers, experts and trainees and to harness electronic media to this end, the information contained in the indices measuring the desired outcome of activities over the next three years, shows that over 250 regional and sub-regional training sessions will be implemented thanks to the technical resources and professional expertise available in various training fields at ISESCO’s regional centers. Also planned are the preparation of 150 research works, studies and reports, guidebooks and teaching aids, the organization of 130 meetings of experts and specialized seminars, and the increasing of the number of activities that boost ISESCO chairs in existence or the creation of new ones.
The same applies to the already existing or to be created ISESCO prizes to be announced within the framework of the coming action plan and that encourage creativity and innovation among the youth. The same measurement indicators reveal an increasing interest in intensifying actions undertaken in cooperation with civil society organizations and focused on the youth, women and children, on raising them on the respect for the values of citizenship, dialogue and the love of work and its quality, enabling them to enjoy their cultural, social, economic and political rights, and addressing gender issues in a context of equality in rights and duties between men and women.
On the other hand, and as pledged, the number of conferences, seminars and international and regional forums was reduced to 50 which include the Islamic ministerial conferences convened by ISESCO in the fields of higher education and research, culture, childhood and the environment, the Islamic conference of education ministers (whose first and second sessions are scheduled under the new action plan), the annual meetings of the consultative council in charge of following up on the implementation of the Cultural Strategy for the Islamic World, the Consultative Council in charge of following up on the implementation of the Strategy for the Development of Sciences and Technology in the Islamic World, the consultative council for Bringing Islamic Madhahib Closer Together, and the Supreme Council of Education and Culture for Muslims outside the Islamic World.
Additional emphasis is placed under the new action plan on strengthening ISESCO’s role in providing expertise and technical advice to the authorities in charge of developing national educational, scientific, cultural and communication policies, in extending the subsidies necessary for the implementation of local activities, especially in terms of training human resources and building professional capacities, and in granting scholarships for scientific research projects. About 300 activities have been dedicated to covering needs and meeting objectives.
With regard to the development of monitoring, follow-up and evaluation mechanisms, we are confident that the objective and outcome-based planning methodology adopted in the preparation of the new action plan will provide us with the necessary objective data to perform better than before. Indeed, the desired results, limited in number, well defined in scope in content and timeframe, as well as in measurability thanks to performance indicators, will enable us to follow up on the implementation of activities and conduct a more accurate evaluation of their impact.
In terms of giving body to the partnership and cooperation with Arab, Islamic and international organizations, civil society institutions and national commissions during the next three years, it was decided that this endeavor would espouse a new perspective where the outputs of cooperation and its executive mechanisms translate into integrated programmes and projects that address fundamental issues and propose radical and effective solutions, within set timeframes, in coordination with the beneficiaries and executive and cooperating parties, and based on quality criteria and assessment indicators that properly assess the impact on the ground of these programmes and projects.
Always in line with this new vision of cooperation, the internal configuration of cooperating institutions and bodies has been redrawn to dedicate a special axis to cooperation with governmental systems such as the Islamic, Arab, African, Asian, European and UN systems, as well as a special axis dedicated to NGOs, civil society institutions and the private sector. This should enable us to foster complementarity with governmental organizations and cooperate with them through more comprehensive and effective mechanisms, as well as interact with non-governmental institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector in ways that take account of their specificity, aspirations and ever renewing roles.
This will also enable us to lay bridges between these two categories of cooperating parties and draw maximum benefit from their experience and performance in serving Member States and fulfilling the Organization's objectives and its civilizational mission. With regard to the 2013-2015 budget, the Organization forged ahead with the strategic orientation developed over its previous plans and which provides for the allocation of no less than two-thirds of the entire budget for programmes, while the remaining third goes to cover various administrative expenses.
The Organization made sure to keep abreast of financial developments and to take note of economic factors, whether local ones such as the annual inflation rate and cost of living increases in the seat country and host countries of ISESCO’s regional offices, or at the international ones such as the drop in U.S. dollar value (the US dollar being the currency in use in the budget) compared with exchange rates of other world currencies, and the rising costs of general services such as printing and publishing, technical supplies and air tickets when calculating the field costs associated with the implementation of programmes and financial management.
Also included in the present action plan are the Organization’s new financial estimates of major programmes such as the Islamic ministerial conferences of which the organization was assigned to ISESCO by previous Islamic Summit Conference meetings and the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers. Under the current action plan, the Islamic conference of education ministers will be added along with effective participation in the Islamic conference of ministers in charge of youth, to be held in collaboration with the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation, and with the Islamic conference of endowments (Awqaf) ministers.
Added to these major programmes are others that are no less important or strategic for the Organization and for its growing role on the international scene. These include the alliance of civilizations, the fight against extremism, the international environmental summits, and the education for all conferences. The Organization had earmarked part of its estimated funds to these activities under its current action plan.
In light of these data, and compared with the three previous action plans, the present action plan registers a nil increase in budget. This increase is not attributed to a higher number of programmes or the volume of administrative expenses and operating costs, but is the result of external factors beyond the control of the General Directorate: namely, the financial and economic indicators mentioned earlier. In fact, while the implementation of a given programme used to cost a certain amount under the 2004-2005 three-year action plan (last record of a budget increase), the same programme will cost more under the three-year action plan for 2013-2015.
The Organization has considered this variation as the budget’s increase rate.
And since the Organization’s constitutional organs and the competent authorities in Member States can neither sanction a drop in the quality of implementation, nor a decrease in the representation of the Islamic world by the Organization at international forums, or failure to counter the onslaughts against Islam and Muslims, the only strategic option left is to empower the Organization and its executives arms and build up their capacity to tackle the developmental challenges facing Member States in the most effective and appropriate ways. Thus, and out of the new budget which amounts to US$ 45,210,498, the amount of US$ 38,867,787, i.e. 86%, has been earmarked for programmes, while only US$ 6,342,711 allocated to cover operating costs, equipment and administrative personnel.
The high percentage allocated to programmes reflects the keenness of the General Directorate to ensure that Member States benefit optimally from the Organization’s activities and secure all that is essential for serving the developmental objectives of these countries. It also stems from a strong desire to rationalize expenditure and reduce administrative expenses to the bare minimum.