It was the seventh in a series of international conferences on globalization organized jointly by UNESCO and the UNU. This conference was convened to take stock of Africa’s achievements, successes and failures over the past fifty years and to reflect on ongoing challenges facing the continent, as well as its development today in a globalizing economic and financial crisis.
Mr Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Mr John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor, former President of the Republic of Ghana; Mr Alpha Oumar Konaré, former President of the Republic of Mali and Chairperson of the African Union Commission; Mr Sam Nujoma, founding President of the Republic of Namibia; and Mr Antonio Ramalho Eanes, former President of the Republic of Portugal, participated in the conference. The Japanese authorities were represented at the opening ceremony by Mr Tetsuro Fukuyama, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and Mr Masaharu Nakagawa, Senior Vice Minister of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
In his opening address, Mr Matsuura expressed his personal satisfaction for participating as Director-General of UNESCO in the last one in the series of UNESCO/UNU globalization conferences with a focus on Africa, “whose growth and development [he had] worked to support throughout [his] career”.
“This conference takes place at a critical moment for Africa”, argued the Director-General. “The past decade has seen major advances across much of the continent in terms of rising economic growth, falling poverty rates, stronger democratic governance and enhanced regional and sub-regional cooperation”. The Director-General went on to warn against a series of crises – economic, food, energy, climate, environmental – that threatened to derail this process. “We must not let this happen. We cannot allow the gains of recent years to be stalled, or worse turned back”, underscored Mr Matsuura.
Elaborating on ways to transform this period of multiple crises into an opportunity for positive change in Africa, the Director-General highlighted the importance of: 1) Top level political commitment to peace and democracy; 2) Global solidarity; and 3) Enhancing the knowledge and skills of African people by investing in education, science and culture. Outlining UNESCO’s actions in the latter areas, the Director-General paid tribute to the African Union and, in particular, Mr Konaré as a chair of the African Union Commission, who had done so much “to place education, science and culture at the centre of the continent’s development agenda”.
The Director-General concluded his remarks by reiterating his call to seize the unique opportunity for change to “chart a new path for Africa’s development. This requires strong political will, anchored in the right policies and backed by international support. With such leadership and solidarity we can bring about a more inclusive and sustainable globalization where Africa plays its full and rightful role”, he added.
The first session of the two-day conference, “Charting the Future for Africa: Leadership Forum”, co-chaired by the Director-General and the Rector of UNU and featuring the former Presidents, was followed by sessions on “Charting the Future of Africa: Putting Vision into Practice”; “Charting Future of Africa: Dialoguing with the Leaders”; “Africa and Governance: Improving Socio-political Cohesion” and “Africa and Sustainable Development”.
At the reception hosted at the end of the first day, speaking on behalf of four participating former African presidents, President Obasanjo thanked Mr Matsuura for what he had done for Africa and wished him well in his future endeavours, saying they were confident that whatever he would be doing, he would always be "African Honorary Ambassador".
Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 174-2009 - Publication Date: 28-09-2009