“The meeting provided us with valuable information and gave us an opportunity to appreciate the determination of Iraq’s academics and Ministry of Education to bring higher education back to its former level of excellence,” Mr. Matsuura said.
“I am confident,” the Director-General added, “that UNESCO chairs in universities around the world, our educational networks and our many international partners will contribute to the rapid return of Iraq to the fold of the global community of higher learning and research, which is essential for peace and prosperity in the country.”
The Director-General also said that UNESCO would continue assisting Iraq in obtaining scientific and medical equipment and books, developing and modernizing its university curricula, infrastructures and services.
Mr. Matsuura further welcomed the commitment voiced by Iraq’s Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Mosa Al Mosawy, “to ensure quality higher education marked by gender parity, the separation of state and religion, mindful of the values of democracy and human rights.”
Three donations to help revitalize higher education in Iraq were announced during the Roundtable: Her Highness The First Lady of Qatar, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Misand, who is a Special UNESCO Envoy for Basic and Higher Education, pledged US$1 million dollars Donation from QNB in addition to the US$15 million she provided to the International Fund for Higher Education in Iraq in 2003; the Republic of Korea pledged US$200,000; and DOHA bank pledged $30,000.
“These donations are warmly appreciated and will be used for the implementation of concrete projects for the benefit of students, academics and researchers,” the Director-General said, inviting Member States, multilateral and private sector donors to continue providing funds to Iraqi higher education.
The two-day Roundtable was attended by close to 20 leading academics from Iraq and representatives of the Iraqi Education Ministry, including Salih Idris, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Mosa Al Mosawy, President of Baghdad University, and Abdul Salam Al Jammas, Director General of Projects and Reconstruction at the Ministry of Education. It also drew participants from the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development and representatives of the global academic community, bilateral and multilateral organizations, international NGOs and the private sector.
The Director-General, Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, opened the Round Table on the Revitalization of Higher Education in Iraq, which is being held at Headquarters end of February 2005. The meeting is being attended by representatives of Iraqi institutions of higher education, the Deputy Minister and senior officials of the Ministry of Higher Education in Iraq, representatives of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, and representatives of the global academic community, bilateral and multilateral organizations, international NGOs and the private sector.
The Director-General said that it is “a timely moment for the international community to look again at its longer-term cooperation with Iraq and to make appropriate adjustments in the perspective of reconstruction, sustained development and peace in Iraq” and that Iraqi higher education must figure prominently within those processes: “In the perspective of sustained peace, democracy and development in Iraq, higher education is not a luxury but a necessity”, he stated.
After outlining the work undertaken by UNESCO during recent years, the Director-General said that “UNESCO foresees that the balance of its contribution to the revitalization of Iraqi higher education will gradually shift away from physical rehabilitation towards the promotion of intellectual cooperation, international academic collaboration and joint research, and quality improvements, including quality assurance mechanisms. UNESCO will use its networks and channels to facilitate the reintegration of Iraqi’s university system and academic community into the circuits of international cooperation and exchange. There is no future in isolation, and this is particularly true of intellectual, academic and scientific life.”
Mr. Matsuura told the participants that “the dialogue that we are initiating today will not only re-create ties between the academic community in Iraq and global networks of scientific research and academic collaboration, but will also stimulate the release of the financial resources that are needed in order to make a real difference.” He added that “UNESCO believes that an international conference for rebuilding the higher education system in Iraq should be held in due course.”
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