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Dialogue, Capacity Building, Innovation

Public Events on Africa at the United Nations University Centre

In its mission to function as “a platform for dialogue and new and creative ideas,” the United Nations University has over the past decade hosted numerous lectures, seminars, and symposiums at the UNU Centre in Tokyo. Addressing the challenges as well as the many opportunities facing the African continent has been at the forefront of these efforts. The following public events feature a diverse array of leading figures from academia as well as from the public, private, and civic sectors.

Falling within the broader framework of UNU’s thematic dimensions, these events examine and debate aspects of development in Africa from a variety of perspectives. The lectures, seminars, and symposiums below explore issues from poverty reduction strategies and gender equality to health, climate change, and education for sustainable development. As a knowledge resource for students, scholars, and the general public, this compilation offers insight and understanding into the continually evolving dialogue on African development and security.

Events are listed in reverse chronological order.


Africa and Globalization: Learning from the Past, Enabling a Better Future

The 2009 UNU/UNESCO International Conference

On 28 and 29 September, the 2009 UNU/UNESCO International Conference on Africa and Globalization was held at the United Nations University Headquarters in Tokyo. The conference successfully brought together former heads of state and African experts from a diverse array of professional and academic backgrounds. Over the two days of presentations and debate, the speakers and panelists explored Africa’s post-colonial history, seeking lessons from the past in addressing the future challenges facing the continent in a globalized world.

Conference participants included experts from academia, civil society and the private sector as well as five former heads of state: António Ramalho Eanes (Portugual); Alpha Oumar Konaré (Mali); John Agyekum Kufuor (Ghana); Sam Nujoma (Namibia); and Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria).


The Role of Universities in the Promotion of Education for Sustainable Development in Africa
Open Symposium at the Rose Hall, UNU Centre

Session 1: Sustainability Challenges in Africa
Session 2: Education for Sustainable Development in Africa

The sustainable development challenge is deep-rooted and requires a holistic approach. In the endeavor to meet these challenges and to link with the Millennium Development Goals, in 2002, the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD), spanning from 2005 to 2014. It aims to change the approach to education by integrating the principles, values, and practices of sustainable development.

With Japan and UNU's long-standing commitment to DESD and development in Africa, United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) and the newly established United Nations University Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP) convened its first joint symposium on "The Role of Universities in the Promotion of Education for Sustainable Development in Africa" on 27 February 2009 at the Elizabeth Rose Hall, UNU in Tokyo. Supporters included Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and Ministry of Environment (MOE) of Japan.

The symposium consists of presentations by experts in the area of sustainable development and education in Africa to discuss the challenges the continent faces in higher education. This symposium further develops the new UNU programme, Education for Sustainable Development in Africa, and it follows the three days of consultation with African and Japanese university experts on Education for Sustainable Development.


Climate Change and African Initiatives
U Thant Lecture Series, Lecture 15

Abdoulaye Wade, President of the Republic of Senegal

President Wade speaks on climate change and Africa, and specifically on how African-led initiatives, such as la Grande Muraille Verte (the Great Green Wall) can contribute to combating desertification. Projects that foster the greening of the continent have, of necessity, a regional dimension, and in his recent speeches Wade has highlighted the importance of the sharing of experiences, of collaborative effort, and of innovation to the success of these initiatives.

His presentation looks at how such activity contributes to the fostering of new technologies and partnerships in the field of land and resource management. Prior to delivering the U Thant Distinguished Lecture, President Wade participated in the 2008 G8 Summit in Hokkaido where he was invited by the Japanese government, together with representatives of six other African countries and the African Union, to discuss with the G8 leaders issues concerning African development, including climate change.


Commemorative Lecture by The First Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize Laureates

Dr. Brian GreenwoodCan Malaria be Eliminated?

Prof. Miriam K. WereOpportunities for Transforming Health Status of Africa

The Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize was established by the government of Japan to honour individuals who have made outstanding achievements in combating infectious diseases in Africa or in establishing innovative medical services. At this event, organized by the Cabinet Office of Japan and co-organized by the Science Council of Japan and UNU, the inaugural Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize laureates, Dr. Brian Greenwood and Prof. Miriam K. Were deliver commemorative lectures on, respectively, “Malaria elimination: Is it possible?” and “The Potential for Improvement in Africa's Health”.


Negotiating Peace in Africa, Asia and Europe
U Thant Lecture Series, Lecture 14

Martti Ahtisaari, Former President of the Republic of Finland, 2008 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari has made numerous vital contributions to international peace and security, from facilitating the peace process between the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement to his recent role as UN Special Envoy for the Kosovo Status Process.

He has successfully brought together opposing parties in conflicts around the globe, facilitating dialogue and setting the scene for agreement to emerge. In this way, his efforts have allowed seemingly intractable conflicts to end in political, negotiated settlements.

This lecture on “Negotiating Peace in Africa, Asia and Europe” demonstrates the former President’s range of experience, highlighting our shared responsibility to help and protect our fellow human beings. Indeed, we all have a responsibility to prevent conflict, but when this fails we must equally do all we can to achieve peaceful resolutions.


Capacity Building in Africa and the Role of Japan
International Symposium at the U Thant Hall, UNU Centre

The United Nations University, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, and the Waseda Institute of International Strategy jointly organized an international symposium on "Capacity Building in Africa and the Role of Japan". The symposium presents an opportunity for analyzing the current situation in Africa and for discussing innovative ideas on how the international community, and most specifically Japan, can positively contribute to reducing issues confronting Africa such as "brain drain".

The symposium features scholars as well as UN officials who have abundant knowledge and experience in the areas of capacity building and poverty alleviation. The symposium also aims to define policy recommendations that can enable developed countries such as Japan to contribute in an active way, to help reduce "brain drain" and its negative impact on developing countries.


The Role of Women in African Development
Public Lecture at the U Thant Hall, UNU Centre

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf spoke at the UNU Centre in Tokyo on The Role of Women in African Development. In her lecture, Sirleaf points out that progress in improving the status and rights of African woman over the past two decades has been slow but steady. She also notes that throughout history, the women of Africa have played significant roles as “custodians of culture” and in consensus-building and traditional decision-making processes. Yet, with modernization in the colonial and post-colonial periods and upheavals in traditional economic and social systems, African women were marginalized and victimized.

Sirleaf argues, however, that Africa is changing and that the past two decades have seen economic reform, the rule of law and a trend toward democracy. Although women continue to confront economic and social disadvantages, progress in improving the status and rights of women has been steady, albeit slow. Throughout Africa, women are a growing presence in the labour market as well as in the political sphere. It is this ongoing progress, she says, that enabled her to become the first democratically elected woman president in Africa.


Reconciliation and Reconstruction in Rwanda
Public Lecture at the U Thant Hall, UNU Centre

Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda

Paul Kagame has played a major role in Rwanda’s recent history, first as leader of the expatriate rebel movement that halted the 1994 genocide, and then as Vice President (1994–2000) and President (since 2000) of the recovering nation.

In his lecture, Kagame focuses on Rwanda’s successful recovery from the 1994 genocide, when as many as one million were killed, and the nation’s steady progress on the path to peace and development. The lecture was followed by comments from Professor Peter Hitjitevi Katjavivi, Chair, Council of the United Nations University, and a question and answer session moderated by UNU Rector Hans van Ginkel.


How to keep Governments Accountable: the Role of Parliaments
Public Lecture at the Rose Hall, UNU Centre

Getrude Ibengwe Mongella, President of the African Union Parliament

Mme Mongella's talk highlights the role of Parliaments, and how best they can contribute to keeping Governments accountable. The United Nations University (UNU) and the African Diplomatic Corps in Tokyo (ADC) jointly organized this public event, with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The lecture was followed by comments from Professor Patrick Chabal of King's College, London University, and a question and answer session moderated by UNU Rector Hans van Ginkel.


Africa Dynamism: Efforts towards Regional Cooperation and Integration
Open Seminar & Lecture on African Development

Alpha Oumar Konaré, President of the African Union Commission, Former President of Mali (1992–2002)

On July 24, 2006, President of the African Union Commission and former President of Mali Alpha Oumar Konaré delivered a lecture at the UN House in Tokyo on the topic of “Africa Dynamism: Efforts towards Regional Cooperation and Integration”. In his lecture, Konaré says that “The problems of Africa can not be solved in an isolated way.” He explains that that the continent's developing awareness of the need for integration and solidarity was not a threat to national sovereignty but rather an opportunity to face the real threats to sovereignty: multinational corporations and international financial institutions. He says that a “United States of Africa” could help ensure the development of smaller, weaker African countries and the continent as a whole.


The Current conditions and Issues of Peace Support Operations in Africa
United Nations University and Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Co-organized Seminar

United Nations University and Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Co-organized Seminar

Ramesh Thakur, United Nations University, Senior Vice-Rector
Charles Mankato, The Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre
Bakary Kanoute, Chief-Instructor, Peacekeeping School of Mali
Keitaro Sato, Ambassador in Charge of Conflict and Refugee-related Issues in Africa
Takahiro Nakamae, Director of International Peace Cooperation Division, Insititute of Foreign Affairs
Takao Toda, Director of the Office of Peace Building, Office and Human Security, JICA

In Africa, regional disputes still occur frequently centering on the Great Lakes Region, West Africa, and the Horn of Africa. AU is planning to establish the Peace and Security Council and to send African Standby Force which will be set in future to intervene in regional disputes, and also involves in each country activity for this issue.

The action plan for the capability improvement of Peace Support Operations (PSO) targeting the African Region was launched this year through G8 Process. This plan will be one of the main subjects at the next Summit in U.K. 2005.

The United Nations has also taken the initiative in order to transfer the knowledge cultivated in Peace Keeping Operation(PKO)to Africa. It is necessary for Japan, covering 20% of the PKO cost and putting priority of the peace consolidation in Africa, to clarify the current condition and issue of Africa and prescribe some effective plan.


The Promotion of African Peace and Development: the Role of African Regional Organizations and the United Nations
Public Forum at the Rose Hall, UNU Centre

Jean Ping, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Gabon, President-designate of the 59th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Jean Ping, Gabonese Foreign Minister and President-designate of the United Nations General Assembly, delivered a public lecture at UN House in Tokyo on the topic of "The Promotion of African Peace and Development: The Role of African Regional Organizations and the United Nations." The lecture aims to enhance public awareness in Japan on African development. Ping explains the important role that African regional organizations and the United Nations play in the promotion of peace and development in the continent.

Ping has served as a minister in the government of the Gabonese Republic since 1990, and as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and French-Speaking Communities since 1999. He previously served as Director of the Cabinet of the President of the Republic (1984-90) and as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Gabon's Permanent Mission to UNESCO (1978-84). He also has worked for such organizations as the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the World Bank, and based upon these experiences, he has written books and articles on the Gabonese economy as well as development issues in Africa in general.


Implementation of TICAD III: The Perspective of an African Leader
TICAD III Public Lecture at the UNU Centre

John Agyekum Kufuor, President of the Republic of Ghana

This lecture aims, through an African perspective, to enhance Japanese public awareness of the implementation of the Third Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD III). The lecture took place right after the closing ceremony of the TICAD III.

In his lecture, President Kufuor presents his perspective on African development and the role played by the TICAD. As the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Kufuor explains how Western Africa perceives the relation between the TICAD and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). He also presents his vision on what should happen in order to make Western Africa, and most precisely Ghana, benefit better from the TICAD process.


NEPAD, TICAD and Millennium Development Goals: Challenges for German and Japanese Development Policies
TICAD III Public Lecture at the UNU Centre

Uschi Eid, German Parliamentary State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, German Chancellor's G8 Personal Representative for Africa

In her function as the German G8 Representative for Africa, Dr. Uschi Eid has been at the core of the partnership between the G8 and the African pro-reform politicians who lead the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). These African Politicians share a bold vision for their continent and firmly accept their own responsibility for the continent’s future. In her lecture, Eid elaborates on what NEPAD really means for German and Japanese development policies, and how their co-operation will contribute towards halving poverty by the year 2015.


Agriculture, Development and Human Rights in the Future of Africa
U Thant Lecture Series, Lecture 6

Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States, 2002 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

“Unfortunately, in addressing African needs there is little cooperation among major donors, including the World Bank, IMF, the United States, Japan and other nations, and private organizations like The Carter Center and the Nippon Foundation. This cacophony of voices exacerbates the problems of eager African leaders, which they have now expressed through new partnerships for African development (NEPAD). Globalization has been a one-way street, bringing few benefits to Africa, and there is little evidence of real concern in rich nations for the plight of the poor.”


Botswana’s Success Story: Overcoming the Challenges of Development
Public Lecture at the UNU Centre

Festus G. Mogae, President of Botswana

The President of Botswana Festus Mogae visited UNU Centre in Tokyo on March 18 to talk about how his country became a model of democracy, good governance and prudent economic management.

In his lecture entitled "Botswana's Success Story — Overcoming the Challenges of Development", Mogae talks about the reasons for Botswana's success as well as the challenges it still faces, including geo-political and environmental factors, human resource development, health and other critical development issues.

The lecture also explores the topic of "Diamonds for Development", including the role diamonds play in Botswana's development, in addition to the Kimberley Process and its efforts in ridding the world of conflict diamonds and securing the interests of legitimate diamond exporters such as Botswana, the world's number one producer of gem diamonds (by value).


Agriculture, Development and Human Rights in the Future of Africa
U Thant Lecture Series, Lecture 4

Norman E. Borlaug, 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

"Had the world's food supply been distributed evenly, it would have provided an adequate diet in 2000 (2,350 calories, principally from grain) for 7.2 billion people—about one billion more than the actual population. However, had people in Third World countries attempted to obtain 70 percent of their calories from animal and fish products—as in the industrialized countries—only about half of the current world population could be fed."


The New African Initiative
U Thant Lecture Series, Lecture 2

Thabo Mbeki, President of the Republic of South Africa

Thabo Mbeki, President of the Republic of South Africa gave the second U Thant Distinguished Lecture on 2 October 2001 on the theme of the New African Initiative. The New African Initiative outlines a strategy to reduce poverty and place Africa on a path of sustainable growth and development. The Initiative calls for a new relationship between Africa and the international community and was discussed at the recent G8 summit in Genoa. Mbeki outlines his views on how Africa can tackle its enormous economic and social problems and make a contribution to the international community in the twenty-first century.


Page last modified 2019.04.16.

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