The World OER Congress 2012, organized by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and UNESCO with the generous support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (UNESCO Communication and Information, 2012), highlighted ways in which OER are serving as tools for collaboration and the creation of learning resources. The Congress resulted in the adoption of the Paris OER Declaration (Appendix A), which notably encourages governments to openly license educational materials that are publicly funded.
As part of their joint project Fostering Governmental Support for Open Educational Resources Internationally, UNESCO and COL invited governments to provide information about their policies in relation to OER. Questionnaires were developed by UNESCO and COL, based on a simplified version of the OECD questionnaires, and was sent out to Commonwealth Governments, OECD Commonwealth countries and the governments of the provinces, states and territories of Australia and Canada in October 2011. The findings from this study (Hoosen, 2012) acted as a key input to the World OER Congress and ultimately the formulation of the Paris OER Declaration.
In the months leading up to the June 2012 Congress, COL and UNESCO organized 6 policy fora in the major regions of the world to continue to inform governments and educational leaders about the potential of OER and to invite them to participate in the drafting of the Paris Declaration. These Regional Policy Fora were organized in 2012, thanks to the support of the national authorities in the host countries. They were held in: Bridgetown, Barbados (Caribbean Regional Forum), 24-26 January 2012; Johannesburg, South Africa (Africa Regional Forum), 21-23 February; Sao Paolo, Brazil (Latin America Regional Forum), 28-29 March 2012; Cambridge, UK, (Europe Regional Forum), 17 April 2012; Bangkok, Thailand (Asia and the Pacific Regional Forum), 23 -24 April 2012; Muscat, Oman (Arab States Regional Forum), 7-8 May 2012. The recent William and Flora Hewlett Foundation evaluation of UNESCO and COL OER initiatives in 2015 recognized that these regional workshops served to lift up new voices, provide examples, and generate new champions. They also served as the basis for the establishment of advocacy, capacity building and policy work undertaken by UNESCO in the implementation of the Paris OER Declaration 2012 (UNESCO, 2016).
Following a proposal by the Government of Slovenia to the 199th Executive Board of UNESCO, the 2nd World OER Congress is scheduled to be held in Ljubljana on September 18-20, 2017 hosted by the Government of Slovenia in cooperation with UNESCO. In the year leading up to this event, COL, in partnership with UNESCO and the Government of Slovenia, aims to conduct follow up surveys of world governments/key stakeholders and Regional Consultations with the following objectives: