International Conference in Dakar
Groundbreaking International Conference in Dakar Adopts Roadmap for Holocaust and Genocide Education in Africa
Dakar, June 4 – The first international conference on genocide prevention and Holocaust education in Africa ended its work by adopting a roadmap to sustainable integration of education about the Holocaust and other occurrences of genocide, notably that of Rwanda, in the educational systems of interested nations in West Africa.
The conference, organized by the Paris-based NGO, the Aladdin Project, in partnership with UNESCO, brought together historians and educators from Europe, North America and Israel, and senior officials, diplomats, teachers and students from Senegal and other countries in West Africa, to debate and exchange views on strategies for introducing Holocaust and genocide education and raising awareness about the importance of dealing with the history of genocides in educational settings.
Adama Dieng, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, who took part in the conference, described the outcome of the conference as “a very encouraging breakthrough that opens the way to concrete progress in the field of Holocaust and genocide education in West Africa and beyond.”
Several televisions stations and numerous newspapers and media outlet in Senegal carried reports on the conference that was opened with a speech by the Minister of Justice of Senegal Sidiki Kaba, read on his behalf by his chief of staff. The Minister, who is President of the Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court, laid emphasis on the role of education in preventing further genocides and quoted French Holocaust survivor and former minister Simone Veil to underline the need for rigorous standards in Holocaust education.
The organization of the conference was made possible through the support of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (CLAIMS CONFERENCE), the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation and the French Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah.
After welcoming remarks by Aladdin Project Executive Director Abe Radkin, the opening session of the conference heard speeches by Aladdin President Anne-Marie Revcolevschi, UNESCO's regional director and former Gambian Education Minister Ann-Therese Ndong-Jatta, French Ambassador Jean-Felix Paganon, and Professor Steven Katz, academic advisor to the IHRA, before the inaugural address by Adama Dieng, the special envoy of the UN Secretray General.
Over the following two days, participants heard a series of presentations and panel discussions on the genesis of genocides, the existing experiences in the field of Holocaust and genocide education in Africa, and the moral and political factors in genocide education. Several experts, including Prof. Edward Kissi from Ghana, and Boubacar Boris Diop from Senegal, proposed strategies for an indigenous “African” approach to Holocaust and genocide education, while Prof. Alioune Dieme from Dakar University made an eloquent and passionate case for the need for Africans to study the history of the Holocaust. Anti-slavery campaigner and researcher Karfa Sira Diallo talked about the history of slavery and stressed the need to teach young people about racism and anti-Semitism.
A panel of scholars and educators from Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Anne Frank Fonds in Switzerland, chaired by UNESCO’s Holocaust education focal point Karel Fracapane, discussed traditional and more modern techniques and approaches to Holocaust education around the world.
The conference’s closing speech was made by Senegalese intellectual and human rights advocate Pierre Sané, a former Secretary General of Amnesty International and Assistant Director-General of UNESCO. Prof. Steven Katz, Rapporteur of the conference, presented a round-up of the discussions and his report will be presented to the Ministers of Education of all the countries of West Africa, as well as the United Nations and other international organizations.
A working session in the presence of senior representatives of the Education ministries of Senegal and several other West African countries, discussed and adopted a plan to follow-up the outcomes of the conference. The roadmap details further steps to raise awareness of regional stakeholders about the importance of dealing with the history of genocides in educational settings and overcome the main challenges to the implementation of Holocaust and genocide education in the context of African countries.
Brahima Sangaré, advisor to the Minister of Education of Cote d’Ivoire, hailed the adopted document as a “concrete plan to ensure that the outcomes of this exceptional conference will be followed up to the implementation level.