COPE Conference: Power in education unions across the Pacific

Solidarity Sisters! Women of the March 2024 COPE Conference

The recent Council of Pacific Education (COPE) Conference held in Nadi, Fiji, underscored the crucial and powerful role of unions in addressing pressing issues.

Bringing together union members and leaders from numerous Pacific nations from 1 to 3 March, the COPE conference served as a platform to strengthen capacities, strategise, and identify opportunities for collective action within the education sector throughout the Pacific region.

Shared values and challenges

Reflecting the diverse challenges school staff across the Pacific face, the agenda encompassed a wide range of topics, including union development, quality education, teaching status, and climate justice.

There was a strong spirit of solidarity among attendees. We may come from different nations, but we share common union values such as equity and justice.

In various sessions, we discussed shared challenges from teacher shortages to inadequate workplace health and safety measures, underscoring the urgent need for concerted action and advocacy within the education sector.

Impact of climate change

The conference shed light on the profound impact of climate change on Pacific Island nations, emphasising that climate change is not just an environmental issue but also a pressing concern for education systems and communities at large.

Discussions underscored the importance of integrating climate resilience into educational frameworks and advocating for policies that prioritise sustainability.

(Left to right) Esther Tony, Papua New Guinea Teacher’s Association; Veronica Yewdall, IEUA; Fuatino Fuimaono, Samoa National Teacher’s Association; Rhonda Natapei, Vanuatu Teacher’s Union.

Draft resolution for global forum

A notable outcome of the conference was the draft resolution prepared by the COPE group, to be presented at Education International’s 10th World Conference to be held in Argentina in July 2024 (EI is the global federation of teachers’ unions; it has 383 member organisations from 178 countries).

The COPE resolution exemplifies the collective commitment of Pacific education unions to amplify their voices on the global stage and advocate for outcomes that uphold the rights and wellbeing of teachers and students alike.

Fostering collaboration

COPE is a testament to the power of collective action and solidarity in addressing the challenges the education sector in the Pacific region faces.

By fostering collaboration, dialogue, and strategic planning, the conference laid a strong foundation for advancing the interests of education unions and promoting access to free, quality education for all.

The IEU looks forward to continuing the work of building union power, highlighting climate injustice in the Pacific region and advocating for positive change in the wider education sector.

COPE Women’s Committee Meeting – collaboration of Women across COPE’s jurisdiction

Lee Cunningham