- In an attempt to activate the role of intellectuals in the conflict-ridden Horn of African region, Djibouti will offer a forum to the region's intellectuals to debate and start a dialogue on the region's economic, political and social problems in a conference due to be held in the second half of November 2007.
Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh extended his full support to the conference during a meeting with members of the organising committee, who held a preliminary session on 12 March to review the arrangements related to the conference.
To find out more about the aims and objectives of the conference, Bashir Goth, editor of 'Awdalnews Network', interviewed Dr Ismail Wais, the Conference Coordinator.
Asked why to hold a Horn of African Intellectuals conference in Djibouti, Dr Wais said: "Horn of Africa is a region suffering from political conflict, social upheavals, armed confrontations, economic underdevelopment and environmental disasters. The intellectuals of the region both those on the ground or those from the Diaspora are just watching and not playing their role properly if not being themselves a part of the problems".
"Therefore," he said, "this initiative is calling upon all intellectuals from the Greater Horn of Africa to join hands, work together and produce practical, sustainable and long-term oriented solutions for the region."
According to Dr Wais, it had been decided that the initiative's headquarter should be Djibouti. "The reason is of a practical nature. Djibouti is a politically peaceful and very stable state. It is where all the intellectuals coming from the region can meet any time and exchange ideas."
Besides the government of Djibouti's support to and promotion of the initiative it was to be seen as an autonomous and independent organisation. The president of Djibouti, Mr Guelleh, had expressed his personal commitment and that of his government to support the initiative.
The main objectives of the initiative, according to Dr Wais were to contribute to building a strong consensus on a long-term vision in favour of stability, sustainable development and regional integration; to create a forum or "think tank" to promote reflection and exchange on specific issues of concern to the region; to generate studies and analyses, which may contribute to the formulation of proactive policies responding to the new challenges in the region; to organise periodic training sessions in the field of inter-cultural dialogue and regional integration for various stakeholders; to encourage universities and research institutions to develop focused studies on the main trends in the region utilising anticipatory and scenario-building approaches.
Asked by Mr Goth who are the targeted intellectuals, Dr Wais said the initiative "addresses all intellectuals from the Greater Horn of Africa including those living and working in the Diaspora."
So far UNESCO has financed all the activities of the conference. In the last meeting in Djibouti the government further made "a substantial contribution," according to Dr Wais. "In the long-term however the institution known, as the 'FORUM' should find its own resources," he added.
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