lundi 14 mars 2011

Ghent Charter gains momentum in an International Conference

Ghent Charter gains momentum in an International Conference

A 3-day Conference at Ghent University 9-11 March 2011, examined the background and current facts of the ongoing catastrophe in Iraqi academy and education in general, notably the targeted killing of academics, and formulated initial key proposals for actions by various national and international bodies.

The Conference, organised by BRussells Tribunal together with MENARG – Middle East and North Africa Research Group of the Ghent university in collaboration with many other organisations, started with a solemn ceremony of the signing of the Ghent Charter in defence of Iraqi Academics at the historic Peristilium of the Ghent Aula by prominent Belgian and Iraqi academics and other personalities. This was followed by the formal presentation of the signed document to a UNESCO representative.

Up to 200 participants attended the conference’s opening ceremony and sessions, worked in group to discuss the 30 plus papers presented, and then in workshops to formulate recommendations. Iraqi contributions comprised about half of the total proceedings. It was an example of a commitment across the world to defend academic freedoms and education in general, working and pressuring international bodies on a substantive basis. This is a key public-responsibility role of all universities especially on issues that may be forgotten by media, as is the case with Iraq. The assassination of Iraqi academics continues, and so is the decimation of Iraqi schooling, so that keeping the issue alive is a concern for all citizens, especially educationists.

The search for justice in Iraq includes seeking compensation for the crimes committed by the occupying powers, with education being a main area for such recompense. Without Iraq’s academics and educated middle class, a viable Iraqi society cannot be built.

A unique feature of the conference was the participation of 35 Iraqi academics and activists from inside the country and the Diaspora. There was a close attention to the contributions of colleagues from inside Iraq. Their special situation was fully recognised as seeking reforms to unroll the effects of occupation and stop the ongoing campaign of murder and destruction of education through dealing with the de-facto powers. At the same time there was an insistence in upholding the principles of truth, and of international and humanitarian law in all possible ways.

A creative aspect of the conference was that the recorded proceedings of discussion in the first two days, and the fringe meetings, were summarised overnight into lists of key points that were then presented in two workshops with the specific aim of drafting of proposals during the third day. These proposals are currently being refined with a view to address them to UNESCO, UNICEF, other international and regional bodies, agencies and NGOs, the media and the public.

Against the back drop of the ongoing revolutions in the Middle East and news of mass demonstrations all over Iraq, the final speeches expressed the hope that one day Iraq also will know peace, justice and freedom.

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