Rebuilding Iraq's UniversitiesDoha, Qatar - A multi-million dollar initiative to rebuild and revitalize Iraq’s once thriving universities was launched today in Doha by Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned, First Lady of Qatar, Chairperson of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development and UNESCO Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education, and Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO.
The International Fund for Higher Education in Iraq is to provide immediate and longer-term assistance for the reconstruction of higher education in the country. Administered by UNESCO and governed by the Fund Directorate chaired by the Qatar Foundation, the Fund is open to all interested donors for contributions in cash or in kind.
The state of Qatar has provided the first donation – US $15 million – to the Fund. Several other countries have expressed their interest in participating in this initiative. Assistance provided under the Fund will be closely coordinated with Iraqi universities themselves so as to ensure that priority needs are the first to be addressed.
“I call on all those in a position to help – be they governments, international bodies or private foundations – to join us in this initiative on behalf of Iraqi universities”, said Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO during the ceremony held in Doha, Qatar. “In so doing, they would be investing not only in the future of the Iraqi people but also in the prospects for lasting peace and prosperity throughout the region.”
After so many years of economic hardship, the impact of war-related damage on Iraqi universities has been devastating. While levels of damage vary widely across the country, enormous investment will be required to serve the needs of some 300,000 students from Iraq’s 20 universities and 47 technical colleges and institutes.
The total cost of reconstruction and rehabilitation of higher education facilities is expected to top 2 billion dollars.
The ceremony was held in conjunction with the inauguration of Doha’s “Education City”, and was attended by a delegation of presidents and deans of Iraqi universities. Education City is a flagship project of the Qatar Foundation aimed at creating a culture of quality and academic excellence in the country and region. Renowned universities including Weill Cornell Medical College, Virginia Commonwealth University and Texas A and M University have opened branches in Education City and it is also home to the RAND Policy Institute and the Science and Technology Park.
In her comments given after the signing, Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned. stated: “Iraq’s contributions to the world in education and culture are well known to all of us present. It is with humility that we extend our hand in assistance in this critical period to aid Iraq in engineering its own future.”