Category Archives: International Development

Presentation of Nigerian Higher Education Foundation’s Integrity Award

On September 30, 2015, Jonathan Fanton attended the Nigeria Higher Education Foundation (NHEF) Awards Gala, where he awarded the NHEF Integrity Award to Professor Attahiru Jega. Professor Jega is the former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria. He received the NHEF Integrity Award for his role in preserving the integrity of Nigeria’s democratic process.

 I am delighted to be here with you today as we celebrate the past and future accomplishments of NHEF and recognize its generous supporters who have contributed to the progress of Nigeria. It is indeed a special honor and pleasure this evening to present the NHEF Integrity Award to Professor Attahiru Jega, former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC).

Fifteen years ago, as President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, I chose Nigeria as the country to focus on as part of the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa. It was an initiative by the MacArthur Foundation in partnership with three other foundations—Ford, Rockefeller, and Carnegie—based on the fact that we all believed that education was critical for Africa’s renaissance.

Universities are the bellwether for democracy and development. Can we think of any vibrant democracy and developing economy that has not been nurtured by free and dynamic universities? The reverse is also true, as we know all too well. Authoritarian regimes and closed economies are by their nature insecure and dare not tolerate either intellectual liberty or academic independence.

Democracy is not an event, but a process that takes years, even decades. It requires patience, as progress is measured little by little, day by day. There are many building blocks, but none more central to the process of strengthening democracy than education. This seems to be undeniable. For individuals, education is the ladder of opportunity; for communities, it is the base of common values that holds diverse people together; for nations, it is the engine of economic growth; and for all who believe in freedom, education provides the moral foundation for democracy guided by respect for individual dignity and the rule of law.

MacArthur selected four Nigerian universities upon which to focus our work: Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Ahmadu Bello, and Bayero University. We stayed with these universities based on three qualities of their Vice-Chancellors: vison, leadership, and integrity. Our awardee tonight, Professor Attahiru Jega, was the Vice-Chancellor of Bayero University. I got to know him and work closely with him during his tenure. He demonstrated all three qualities then and, subsequently, in his role as the overseer of Nigeria’s freest and fairest elections.

Two years ago when NHEF was kind enough to honor me, I said in my acceptance speech:

Nigeria’s journey to democracy is being watched the world over. Because of its size, cultural complexity and economic prospects, this country is seen as a leader throughout Africa and as a key actor on the global stage. A Nigeria who fully meets its obligations to its own citizens can provide a beacon of hope to people everywhere.

Let me say here how proud I am of my friend, Vice Chancellor Jega of Bayero, who has taken on the challenge of leading the Independent National Election Commission. Next year’s elections are critical to Nigeria’s future: they must be—and be seen to be—fair and clean. Ordinary citizens will engage more vigorously in building their country if they have faith that the government is of, by, and for the people.

As all of you in the audience know, Nigeria went through a remarkable democratic transition earlier this year, with the election of President Buhari and the peaceful transition of power from President Jonathan. The underpinning of this transition was a robust and transparent electoral process, one that was widely accepted as open and fair.

The key architect of this electoral process is today’s awardee, Professor Attahiru Jega. In his role as Chairman of INEC, Professor Jega laid out the roadmap for the elections as early as 2010, put in place an enormous infrastructure of biometric and polling stations, and oversaw vote counting and tallying. Professor Jega showed outstanding integrity in the face of tremendous political pressure to make sure there was no interference in the process, and to ensure that votes were tallied correctly. Most importantly, his calm leadership under pressure when votes were being announced ensured peace and stability.

For these reasons and more, I am delighted to present the NHEF Integrity Award to a dear friend and a remarkable individual, Professor Attahiru Jega.

In Conversation with Helen Clark

On June 11, 2013 Jonathan sat down with former New Zealand Prime Minister and current head of the United Nations Development Programme to discuss her career in international development and the challenges she faces ahead. To view the video, click here.

Helen Clark

June 11, 2013

Good evening. I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director at Roosevelt House, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to a conversation with Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. Our program is made possible tonight by the generosity of Hunter alumna, Phyllis Kossof, who has been a major force in developing Hunter’s public programs. Previous speakers in the Kossoff series include Tom Brokaw, Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen Breyer, and historian David Kennedy.

Phyllis, we are grateful for your friendship and steadfast support. Please stand.

Tonight’s program is of special interest to all of us who care about creating a more just and peaceful world.

Funded at the level of roughly 5 billion dollars in voluntary contributions, UNDP works in 177 countries to increase political transparency, build democratic institutions, oversee the disbursement of humanitarian aid, and help governments reduce poverty.  It is the lead agency on driving and monitoring the world’s progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals agreed to by world leaders in 2000.  Her vision for an integrated approach to development and poverty eradication is the theoretical basis of the U.N. High Level Panel report released last month that articulates the post-2015 development agenda.

In preparing for tonight’s session I had the pleasure of reading through a selection of Helen Clark’s recent speeches and papers. The titles tell us a lot: “Inclusion and equality: Why Women’s Leadership Matters,” “Human Development and International Justice,” “Meaningful Development, Sustainable Growth,” “Why Tackling Climate Change Matters for Development,” “Conflict and Development: Inclusive Governance, Resilient Societies.” She is eloquent in teaching us that political, social and economic development must go together. In her words:

“At UNDP we see many of the non-financial constraints on human development – war and conflict, armed violence, low social cohesion, poor governance, corruption, poor enabling environments for trade and investment, and a lack of capacity to drive the development and implementation of strategies which could bring about transformational change.”

Under Helen Clark’s leadership, UNDP has addressed those challenges at a breathtaking pace around the world.

Here is a small sample meant to give you a glimpse of the scope of her work. UNDP:

  • Assisted 29 countries in adopting official policies that promote small enterprises and women’s entrepreneurship.
  • Helped mobilize an unprecedented number of young people to vote in Tunisia’s first democratic election in October 2011.
  • Worked with the Global Fund in 32 countries to fight the spread of AIDS.
  • Utilized a Gender Assessment Tool in over 20 countries to increase their spending on health and educational services for women.
  • Conducted case studies on water provision systems in Kenya,Tanzania, and Uganda.
  • Helped remove 60% of the rubble created by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, with much of it being recycled to create new homes in the area.
  • Provided security advice to Libya and trained lawyers and judges in the lead up to the country’s first election since 1952.
  • Provided short-term employment to nearly 5,000 people and legal aide to over 7,000 people a one year period in Somalia.

Those individual accomplishments contribute to big picture progress. In the 13 years since the Millennium Development Goals were adopted there are a half billion fewer people living below the international poverty line, child death rates down 30%, malaria deaths down by one quarter. But we will hear in a moment how much more there is to do and how, despite this good progress, inequality grows. We are fortunate to have Helen Clark to lead us forward.

Appointed in 2009, Helen Clark was reappointed to a 4 year term in 2012 in recognition of her strong and compassionate leadership of all of the UN’s development programs.

She was well prepared for her important work on the world stage. She was trained as a political scientist at the University of Auckland where she taught before entering Parliament in 1981 when she chaired its Foreign Affairs Committee. She served as Minister of Housing, Minister of Health and Minister of Conservation before becoming Deputy Prime Minister. In 1994, Helen Clark was elected Prime Minister of New Zealand, serving three successive terms. As Prime Minister, she lowered unemployment, provided vital services for working families and students, raised wages for the working class, fostered economic growth, and reconciled with Samoa over abuses during New Zealand’s administration of the country.

Her deep experience in the political life of her home country prepared her well for her global responsibilities.

I think Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt would be pleased that we are gathered in their home tonight to talk about how wealthy nations can help improve the lives of the over 1 billion people who live in poverty, people who have energy and talent ready to be unleashed if given a chance.

Hear Eleanor’s words in Sydney, Australia in 1943:

“To help people to help themselves is perhaps the basis of an economic policy which has as its objective freedom from want throughout the world…the future will be safer and perhaps even more prosperous if for a time we devote ourselves to the task of helping people to help themselves…”

What better introduction could there be to Helen Clark whose life responds to Eleanor’s call?

Helen Clark and I will have a conversation for about 30 minutes and then invite you to join us.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Helen Clark.