Participation of ALGA of UCLG Africa to the Workshop of the:  CLOC DEAR MENA, Cluster of Cooperation, Digital Education and Research in Mena Region

From Monday October 30th and Tuesday October 31st, 2023, in Sion, Switzerland, was held a workshop regrouping all stakeholders of the CLOC DEAR MENA projects, at the University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland (Sion).  This workshop was organized within the framework of the collaboration between the Università della Svizzera Italiana (USI), in Switzerland and United Cities and Local Governments in Africa (UCLG Africa) though its African Local Governments Academy (ALGA), Dr Najat ZARROUK, Director of Development, Knowledge Management, Capacity Building and of ALGA of UCLG Africa and Ms. Hala MENKARI, member of the Academy’s staff took part to the Workshop of the CLOC DEAR MENA, Cluster of Cooperation, Digital Education and Research in Mena Region.

The main goal of the Cluster of Cooperation DEAR MENA is to aim at contributing to a research and education network between Institutions of Higher Education in Switzerland and in the MENA region, as well as:

  1. To develop an institutional framework for education and research by providing methods and expertise;
  2. To offer the opportunity to learn about the latest developments within digital technologies in teaching and research;
  3. And to provide a base for joint acquisition of teaching and research funding.

With a focus on the following thematic:

  1. Digital Education and Partnership, to harness the power of digital tools for education;
  2. Engineering Education, to shape the future of engineering through innovative learning methods;
  3. Peacebuilding, to promote peace and understanding through education;
  4. Gender and Diversity, to champion inclusivity in education and research;
  5. Better Public Governance, to strive for improved governance through research.

Each of the 8 projects selected beneficiated of a grant funding with duration between 24 to 36 months, involving financially the Swiss partners.

This works during this two-day workshop gave the opportunity to all the partners to meet in one place and present their projects, what was done and is still to be done, allowed the exchange ideas and good practices, and was marked by the presentations, a Field Visit of old city of Sion with “Le P’tit Sédunois”, a Presentation of the Leading House MENA Switzerland and potential funding opportunities and ended with the presentation of the work of the Earthquake Prevention Learning Center (CPPS) of the University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland (Sion – HES-SO Valais).

The projects presented during this first day were as follows:

The first day of the workshop was rhythmed by a first introductory presentation made by Prof. Fariba  MOGHADDAM of the University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland (HES-SO) , an icebreaking session, followed by the presentation of all the projects and partners, notably with all the activities realized in the framework of the partnership and what will be next the steps for each of them.

Following the presentations, a collective exercise was organized to identify common topics of relevance in an interactive way.

The participants then agreed on the following three (03) topics:

  1. Sustainability of digital innovation and/or transformation;
  2. Peace building, Inclusion of migrants and transcultural skills;
  3. Effective Governance, preventing corruption and transformative leadership.

Following the participants were divided into the three (03) groups to discuss and exchange ideas on how academia can support in these areas of expertise and prepare a presentation of the working groups results to be presented the next day to the rest of the groups, followed by a discussion of the common insights.

These presentations and round table were followed by a last intervention with a Presentation of Leading House MENA Switzerland and the potential funding opportunities made by        Ms. Luna Iacopini, Head of International Affairs Department.

Following the commission of the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) of the HES⁠-⁠SO as the Leading House (LH) for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, its overall goal is to develop scientific collaborations between Switzerland and countries of the MENA region.

The Leading House MENA has set three strategic goals[1]:

  1. Further develop the research cooperation between Switzerland and countries with a high development potential of this region with funding instruments designed according to the interests of the Swiss research community;
  2. Increase the knowledge on countries with a high development potential among the Swiss research community through the availability of contacts and know how;
  3. Represent the interests of the Swiss research community towards potential partners in the region.

As a conclusion the following collaboration Summary highlights the global partners and thematic focuses of these projects:

  • 11 Swiss Partners: Universities (4), Universities of Applied Sciences (4), Federal polytechnic (1), University of Teacher education (1) and Research institute (1)
  • 14 MENA Partners from 7 countries: Morocco (4), Palestine (3), Egypt (2), Tunisia (1), Algeria (1), Iran (2) and Lebanon (1).
  • 5 Thematic Focuses: Digital education & partnership, Engineering education, Peacebuilding, Gender & Diversity and Better Public Governance.

The activities range from: Teaching materials and online resources, Web-resources to Web-based collaborative infrastructures and tools, Skills building Workshops or blended research, Interdisciplinary programs and studies, Explorative and scoping studies, as well as Students exchange (BA & MA).

These two days of work were topped off by a visit of the Earthquake Prevention Learning Center (CPPS) of the University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland (Sion – HES-SO Valais). The CPPS is a competence center dedicated to earthquake prevention and awareness, based on realistic simulations that enable the participants to feel earthquakes in a controlled environment, the CPPS stands out for its innovative educational concept. It offered an unforgettable experience, the opportunity to learn more about earthquakes and their consequences, take part in interactive and simulation activities and visit the simulator that reproduced the earthquake that struck the town of L’Aquila and allowed the group feel the effect of earthquakes up to a magnitude of 7.5 on the Richter scale.