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Academic Freedom and Human Rights Programme

The program on academic freedom and human rights is a Programs Central Council, part of a major mandates of the Charter of CODESRIA promotion and protection of the Academic freedom and human rights researchers.

The defense of the freedom of thought, more generally, and of academic freedom and the autonomy of academic institutions is part of CODESRIA’s mandate as stipulated in the Charter of the Council. Thus, although the Academic Freedom Programme, in its current form, was launched only in June 1994, CODESRIA has been involved in the defense and promotion of academic freedom since it was founded in 1973. In November 1990, participants in a major CODESRIA conference on Academic Freedom adopted the Kampala declaration on Intellectual Freedom and Social Responsibility and recommended the creation of a mechanism for monitoring and promoting academic freedom in Africa. A small fund for assisting scholars in distress was therefore set up by CODESRIA, with funding from SIDA, and CODESRIA intervened in various ways to rescue or assist scholars being threatened by authoritarian governments or running away from the civil wars that have led to the disruption of academic life in a number of countries.

The Kampala Declaration was adopted at a time when a wave of democratization was sweeping through Africa, albeit under conditions of economic hardships. Academic freedom therefore continued to be restricted both by authoritarian governments struggling to survive in the face of heightened struggles for democracy and human rights, and poor economic conditions. The structural problems are still with us today. The freedom of research is violated, or difficult to enjoy, even in countries where basic freedoms are enshrined in democratic constitutions. The problems were compounded by the imposition of structural adjustment programmes and the downgrading of higher education and research in government priorities. The decision by the Council to launch a proper Academic Freedom Programme in 1994 was motivated by the desire to do more than providing assistance to victims of violations of academic freedom, and engage in the active promotion of academic freedom. This is done through sensitization activities, and the organization of dialogues involving members of the academic community, university authorities, policy makers, governments, civil society organizations, funding agencies and other actors. These activities are usually given good media coverage.

Over the last seven years in particular, the Programme has organized promotional conferences and dialogues in several countries. These include a conference on Academic Freedom, Social Responsibility and the State of Academic Freedom in Tanzania, co-organised with the University of dar Es salaam Staff Assembly (UDASA), a conference on reforming the Higher Education System in Nigeria, co-organised with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) of Nigeria, and a conference in Egypt on Intellectual and Academic Freedom in Africa and the Arab World, co-organised with the UNESCO Forum on Higher Education Research and Knowledge, the Swedish Institute in Alexandria and the Arab and African Research Centre in Cairo. Each one of these conferences has produced a book manuscript, and some of the books have already been published (e.g. the one based on the conference held in Kinshasa in June 2004). Organizing these activities with local institutions and research communities has helped in strengthening these local communities of scholars in their defence of academic freedom.

In the coming year, the Programme will also launch a number of research initiatives that would be linked to the regular publication of state of academic freedom reports, and a pan African academic freedom bulletin that will be published in collaboration with Pax Academica, an organization based in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The bulletin will fill an important gap given that apart from the newsletters of academic staff unions such as ASUU and UDASA, there are virtually no periodicals specialized in the publishing information on academic freedom and related matters. The bulletin could later become a journal or lead to the launching of one.

Academic Freedom Programme Activities

1. Conferences

- 2000: Algiers
- 2001: Côte d’Ivoire
- 2001: Guinea Bissau
- 2001: Sierra Leone
- 2004: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
- 2005: Egypt
- 2005: Nigeria
- 2005: Tanzania
- 2006: Angola

2. Assistance to Scholars in Distress

- 2000: Innocent Biruka (Rwanda)
- 2003: Alphonse MBULU (DRC)
- 2004 : Ijeoma Nwachukwu (Nigeria)
- 2005: Abraham Sahr Grass Sessay (Sierra Leone)
- 2005: Abdoulie Sey (Gambia)
- 2005: Semou Ndiaye (Senegal)

3. Support to Local Institutions and Initiatives

Pax Academica (an Academic Freedom Newsletter; negotiations towards its transformation into a pan African academic freedom bulletin are going on)

4. Publications

- 2000: Women in Academia: Gender and Academic Freedom in Africa
- 2005: Academic Freedom in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
- 2006: Academic Freedom: Global Challenges, African Experiences, Special Issue of the Journal of Higher Education in Africa

Forthcoming:

1. Academic Freedom and Social Responsibility of Academicians in Tanzania (based on papers of Dar Es Salaam Workshop, 2005)

2. Reforming Higher Education in Nigeria (based on papers of a CODESRIA-Academic Staff Union of Universities (Nigeria) Conference; Abuja, 2005)

3. Intellectual and Academic Freedom in Africa and the Arab World (papers of a CODESRIA-UNESCO-SWEDISH Institute of Alexandria conference; Alexandria, Egypt, 2005)

4. Réforme de l’Enseignement supérieur et liberté académique en Angola (Higher Education and Academic Freedom in Angola; papers of a conference held in Luanda, 2006)

5. Academic Freedom in the global South (Papers of a round table held in Nantes, France).

To see if there is currently a call for applications for the Academic Freedom and Human Rights Programme, please consult the Announcements section. For further information on the Academic Freedom and Human Rights Programme, please send a message to this address:


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