26.04.2017 - Africa Department

A New Strategy for Africa's Emerging Economies and Transforming societies

The Memory & Future Club of the Association of Former UNESCO Staff Members (AFUS) invites you to take part in an exchange of ideas on A New Strategy for Africa's Emerging Economies and Transforming societies :

Thursday 27 April 2017

1 – 2 pm, Room IX (Fontenoy)

with : Henri Lopes, Former Deputy Director-General for Africa (until 1998) and Edouard Matoko, Assistant Director-General for Africa (since February 2016)

Africa presents a complex and changing reality, a contrasting physical and human geography, large disparities in population size and living standards, a mosaic of languages and ethnicities all of which can not only be sources of conflict but also of intense exchange. Despite the diversity of situations, it is a young and dynamic continent, where initiatives abound, and where positive signs of economic growth and development have been multiplying over the last decade.

Nevertheless, Africa still lags behind in the achievement of international development goals and continues to have the highest number of least developed countries, as well as of countries in post-conflict or post-disaster situations. This situation is the reason why UNESCO maintains the continent’s priority status terms of resources and capacities.

For more than twenty years, Africa has been a priority for UNESCO, which has framed its action in the region within a set of institutional mechanisms specifically designed to support the implementation of this priority: the Africa Department (AFR) since 1996, the Addis Ababa Liaison Office since 2010, and the Intersectoral Platform on Priority Africa since 2008.

While many actions carried out in this framework have been successful - whether it be the strengthening of Education for All, science, technology and innovation policies, the Oceanographic Data Network Africa, or the relationship between culture and development -, and while the Africa Department has been able to strengthen its strategic role and establish partnerships with key players in the region, the picture is still far from satisfactory.

The evaluation of UNESCO's Priority Africa, carried out at the end of 2012, revealed that the mechanisms intended to bring it dynamism and substance had not led to significant progress in the decentralization of human and financial resources for the benefit of the region. A number of systemic problems specific to the Organization had a particular impact on its activities in Africa, including the lack of concentration of its programmes and the complexity of its administrative procedures.

UNESCO has been called upon, therefore, to review the modalities of its action in Africa in order to strengthen its relevance, effectiveness and impact. It is with this in mind that UNESCO's Operational Strategy for Priority Africa (2014-2021) was launched, a result of a process of forward-looking reflection and consultation with major actors on the continent, first among which was the African Union, whose  Pan African vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena” (Agenda 2063 – the Future We Want for Africa) was endorsed by the Organization.

To address this issue, the Memory and Future Club has invited Henri Lopes, former Deputy Director-General, who launched the Africa Department and was its director until 1998, and Edouard Matoko, Assistant Director-General of the Africa Department since 2016.

The Memory & Future Club of the Association of Former UNESCO Staff (AFUS) seeks to highlight the experience of former staff members and to balance it against the vision of their successors, as well as against the current challenges of international cooperation. Building on their shared memory and wishing to preserve it, participants in this group are able to meet informally with their colleagues still in active service so as to engage in a free exchange of ideas and identify how past experiences may enhance future directions.

Henri Lopes, former Minister and Prime Minister of Congo-Brazzaville, joined UNESCO in 1981, first as Assistant Director-General for Programme Support, then for the Culture and External Relations Sectors, and finally as Deputy Director-General (DDG) in charge of the Africa Department (until 1998). Former Ambassador of the Congo in France, he was a member of the High Council of La Francophonie and the personal representative of the Congolese Head of State to the International Organization of the Francophonie. A writer - author of eight novels, a collection of short stories and a collection of essays - Henri Lopes is one of the great names in African French Language literature. He was awarded the Grand prix littéraire d'Afrique noire (Major literary prize of Black Africa), in 1971 for Tribaliques and in 1989 for Le chercheur d'Afriques. His complete works were recognized by the French Academy, which awarded him the Grand Prix de la Francophonie (1993). He launched the magazine Géopolitique Africaine, of which he is currently the President.

Edouard Matoko is the current UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Africa. Previously, he was Director of the UNESCO Liaison Office to the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), as well as UNESCO’s Representative in Ethiopia. Prior to this he had been Director of UNESCO’s Offices in Quito (Ecuador) and Bamako (Mali). He is the author of many books, including Africa by Africans, Utopia or Revolution (1996, Laureate of the International Literary Prize of the French Writers' Association); Endogenous foundations of a culture of peace in Africa, Traditional Mechanisms for Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa (1999), Culture of Peace and UNESCO (2012), and Africa Now! Between emergence and transformation (forthcoming, 2017).

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