|Visit of the Minister of Higher Education of Iraq to UNESCO
12-10-2004 – On 11 October, the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura and the Iraqi Minister of Higher Education, Dr Taher K. Al-Bakaa, discussed how to strengthen cooperation in the field of higher education between UNESCO and Iraq, during a meeting at the Organization’s Headquarters.
At the end of the meeting an agreement was signed for the implementation of four projects, financed by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, chaired by Her Highness Sheikah Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Misnad, UNESCO Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education.
During their meeting, the Director-General and the Minister underlined the urgency of rebuilding on “solid foundations” the Iraqi higher education system. Dr Taher K. Al-Bakaa highlighted the need for quick action both in teacher-training and educational content and in equipment provision, in order to repair the recent widescale damage and pillaging which the universities and other institutions of higher learning in Iraq have undergone.
The Minister, after thanking UNESCO for its action in Iraq, asked the Director-General to do his utmost to convince donor countries to increase funding levels: “We are a large country, with a rich culture: helping us is not a matter of charity, but rather a moral obligation vis-à-vis all of humanity,” he stated. Dr Al-Bakaa expressed his wish to organize an international conference with UNESCO’s support to define better the priority requirements for rehabilitating the higher education system in Iraq.
The Director-General reaffirmed UNESCO’s commitment to assisting Iraq during this phase of rehabilitation of the higher education system and assured the Iraqi Minister of his personal support and that of UNESCO’s programme sectors during the reconstruction of the country, within the Organization’s fields of competence. Mr Matsuura welcomed the fact that UNESCO’s action in Iraq had led to the implementation of concrete projects, suited to the needs of the country. He stated that he was ready to continue and expand this cooperation, while ensuring that all initiatives taken were responsive to the expectations and aspirations of the Iraqi people.
The meeting was allowed by a ceremony, in the presence of the Ambassador, Permanent Delegate of Qatar to UNESCO, during which a Plan of Operation for four projects to be financed by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development was signed. These projects aim to provide textbooks for higher education institutions, books for the four main university libraries and laboratory equipment for medical related and engineering faculties. The agreement also provides for the creation of fellowships for University students and teaching staff.
The Director-General again welcomed the personal commitment of Her Highness Sheikah Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Misnad, and thanked Qatar for its active support for the reconstruction of the higher education system of Iraq.
The Iraqi Minister, after having thanked Qatar, expressed his wish that other countries might “follow this example”, because, he said, “it is essential to support Iraqi reconstruction so that this country can, with time, no longer live by others, but assist others.”
The Minister of Higher Education, during his three-day visit to UNESCO, will meet the heads of UNESCO’s different programme sectors all of which are working in areas related to higher education: education, natural, social and human sciences, culture and communication.
Mr Al-Bakaa will also meet several Ambassadors and Permanent Delegates to UNESCO and address the Executive Board on Tuesday, 12 October, during discussions on the Director-General’s report on the cultural and educational institutions in Iraq.