Call for CODESRIA’s liaison officers on issues related to Academic Freedom
Within the framework of its Academic Freedom Programme, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) is pleased to announce the launching of a new publication called Pax Academica – a CODESRIA bulletin devoted to Academic Freedom in Africa.
CODESRIA’s Academic Freedom Program was launched way back in the early nineties. Its objectives include, among others, the promotion of the freedom of research and thought as well as the protection of human rights within academia.
The launching of a Pax Academica, which will serve as a forum for debates on academic freedom, and as a monitoring, communication and an advocacy tool, adds a new dimension to the Programme.
Context and Justification
The violation of academic freedom is one of the manifestations of the multidimensional crisis that has been hitting African universities since the ’80s. The persistence of this situation, no doubt, impacts negatively on the development and deepening of social science research and, by extension, on the production of new knowledge in Africa.
The Academic Freedom Program was launched in 1994, at a time when most African countries were undergoing processes of democratization. For most of them, the transition to democracy took place in a kind of general precariousness of livelihoods and widespread human insecurity as a result of all sorts of threats, thereby making it difficult for many people to fully enjoy their rights and newly found freedoms.
Over the years, the political systems of many African countries became more liberal and open. However, this development was not uniform. In some countries, the political atmosphere has given rise to an expansion of democratic space, in which human rights and academic freedom are protected by constitutional provisions, whereas in others, there are still a number of restrictions on basic freedoms. In yet other cases, there are signs of serious reversals, as scholars are intimidated, and sometimes dismissed or prosecuted for having simply exercised their rights and duties as scholars, in countries that have the protection of academic freedom in their constitutions. Hence, the conditions of knowledge production in general and the rights of academics and researchers in particular continue to be major concerns.
The effort towards improving the state of human rights in the continent, however, is real. Structural problems still exist, but the fact remains that certain political and social realities have evolved in favor of academic freedom. The revolutions in North Africa are clear illustrations of this. In many countries of Africa, society is now more allergic than in the past to arbitrary acts and statements, and the freedom of expression and the pluralism of opinion are now much more widely accepted. In addition, the demographic and sociological weight of the university population (teachers, students and non-academic staff) is much more important than it was a few decades ago.
In the course of the 17 or so years of its existence, CODESRIA’s Academic Freedom Programme has organized many activities, including conferences and national and regional consultations on academic freedom, emergency assistance to scholars in distress, as well as the publication of statements, articles and books.
For further information, please see the file attached below.