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2023 Annual Commonwealth Day Lecture

Political & Academic Freedom in Commonwealth Africa in the Year of the Youth

Key Note Speaker: Professor Dr Stephen Chan OBE

Date: 13 March 2023, 11:00 – 12:30 GMT | Venue: Committee Room 1, House of Lords, Palace of Westminster, London SW1A 0AA

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Commonwealth Africa now reflects the diversity of Africa as a whole. Former Francophonic and Lusophonic colonies are now members alongside the Anglophonic ones. Within these countries are thousands of languages and cultures. But all cohere in a drive for education and an urge to make free choices. These converge.

All universities were closed, ostensibly to prevent violence, during the period of Nigeria's elections in the last part of February. Even so, Nigerian academics are not a persecuted minority as they often are elsewhere, where informed criticism makes professors - and students - vulnerable to persecution and abuse. Academic freedom and political freedom coincide.

In Europe, academic freedom was the very first civil liberty. It remains a key civil liberty in Africa today. And free expression in higher education helps form the next generation of leaders. But this next generation is frequently resisted by gerontocratic and technophobic existing leaders with vested economic interests in retaining power.

A clash of generations, a clash of views on freedom of expression. Academic freedom helps future leaders to support free expression in society at large. The education of young women leads to changes in views of gender roles. What goes on in universities today shapes the future of countries tomorrow.

Professor Dr Stephen Chan OBE

Stephen Chan has held honorary professorships in several African universities. The citation for his OBE was for 'Services to Higher Education and Africa'.

A former member of the Commonwealth Secretariat, he has published 37 academic books, many of them in-depth studies of African Commonwealth countries. He was Foundation Dean of Law & Social Sciences at SOAS University of London, where he continues as Professor of World Politics.

He has held named Chairs in Palestine and the Central European University in Budapest, witnessing at first hand the symmetry between academic freedom and political freedom.

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Registration: Attendance at the event is strictly by invitation only and early booking is essential as the number of places is very limited.

To avoid disappointment, please RESERVE your place now on Eventbrite HERE, or email us at [email protected]


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