Press Releases

    19 September 2005

    Secretary-General Stresses Need to Train Teachers, Build Research Capacity at Re-Launch of Partnership for Higher Education in Africa

    Concerned over Continuing Brain Drain, He Says Top Researchers Win Prizes in West, but Not at Home

    NEW YORK, 16 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's remarks at the re-launch of the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa in New York today, 16 September:

    I am glad to join you for this event.  One measure of its importance is the presence here of several Heads of State and Government from Africa, amidst the very busy schedule of this week's World Summit.

    Vartan, I remember when we first talked about this initiative more than five years ago.  It is remarkable to see how much has been achieved since then.  And it's encouraging to see the strong momentum that is building up now, with new partners, new funding and new steps to expand the reach of this truly collaborative effort.

    Congratulations, to you and to all the foundations involved:  Carnegie, Ford, MacArthur and Rockefeller, who are to be joined now by the William and Flora Hewlett and Andrew Mellon Foundations.  This is an outstanding display of global citizenship, and a major contribution to my home continent's future development, governance and peace.

    The time is certainly right to re-launch this partnership.  The international community is giving unprecedented attention to Africa's efforts to realize its potential.  Reports earlier this year from the UN Millennium Project and the Commission for Africa pushed hard for investment in the continent's universities and research centres.  African initiatives such as the Mandela Institute of Science and Technology are moving ahead.  And of course, the declaration to be adopted later today at the World Summit includes significant new commitments to support Africa's development.

    Turning all these ideas and recommendations into hard realities is a formidable challenge indeed.  We must do more than build new campuses to meet rapidly growing demand, important though that is.  We need Governments not to forget higher education, when efforts to achieve universal primary education are scaled up.  We need to train teachers and build up research capacity; we need to strengthen open universities and distance learning programmes; and we need to ensure that African institutions have access to the latest technologies, including improved online access to databases, libraries and journals.  Women and poor people still face too many obstacles on their path to higher education.  The AIDS epidemic is having a terrible impact, taking the lives of qualified instructors and researchers.  And the brain drain continues to create situations in which the developing world's leading researchers win prizes for research conducted in the West, but not at home.

    No single group or institution can meet these urgent needs on its own.  All of us -- the Partnership, UNESCO and other UN agencies, and university networks and associations -- must work together to support Governments and higher education institutions in Africa.  The United Nations system is fully committed to doing its part.

    The four foundations -- and two new foundations that join them -- have proved themselves exceptional partners in our work for African development.  Like us at the United Nations, they know that major changes are under way in Africa, and that outsiders can play only a supporting role.  My fellow Africans will not be found wanting in bearing the heaviest burden.  So let us not be found wanting in the solidarity we show them, and together let's move ahead and make Africa as strong as it can be.

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