refugees. The biggest victims of this abuse, as all of you know, are the less advantaged, who nearly always include women and children.
These problems—female genital mutilation, corruption, and civil strife—are the ones I would like a network like this to be aware of and to develop an agenda for. Approaches need to be made to develop arguments around them that emphasize correction of these human rights abuses.
The third issue to address is, Does the Academy have a human rights committee? Yes, we do, as I’ve mentioned. We also encourage each of the 10 science academies in Africa to try and have a human rights committee that will maintain surveillance regionally.
What steps have we taken to encourage other academies? One step is the formation of the network, and another is to encourage groups of scientists in different regions of Africa to form science academies very much independent of politicians. This is important because the few national academies that exist are entirely dependent on government with little discretionary money in the budget. Sometimes, even when an academy feels strongly that human rights are being violated or ignored, the members are afraid to raise their voices, because if they do, next year there will be no money. We encourage them to form independent science academies.
We have recently launched the first newsletter by the network of science academies in Africa. This is going to be a forum in which to raise concerns about human rights abuses in Africa.
We want to develop several regional academies. An academy has just been formed in Zimbabwe, and some six years ago an academy was formed in Senegal. Some other African countries are in the process of establishing academies as well. This will eventually enable the academies in Africa to speak collectively on all issues, including human rights issues.
My final point is to suggest what this Network can do to help protect the integrity of the academies and promote freedom of responsible research. This Network will be very useful to offer ideas—not money—to the national academies on how they can raise funds without necessarily getting them from government. This is very important with regard to being able to speak freely and express opinions. The African Academy of Sciences has this advantage because it is not getting money from any government on a regular basis, although an endowment was given to us by Nigeria. We are approaching other governments, on the basis of an endowment; if they don’t like our request, they will not give us the money. If they do give us money, we are still able to speak freely without being afraid.
Ideas on how to fund this, to make the academies independent financially, as has been suggested to some of my colleagues at the National Academies, would be very helpful. One of the ways would be to ask a government for a one-time donation. It might agree to donate $5