On November 15, 2019, on the occasion of the 40th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO in Paris, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See, Monsignor Francesco Follo, Head of the Delegation of the Holy See to the Session, handed the Director General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, the document of Ratification of the Holy See of the Continental Convention for the academic recognition of studies, certificates, diplomas, degrees and other qualifications in higher education in the African region of UNESCO.
Legal recognition of Catholic universities
For the Holy See, whose academic and university institutions are located in many countries on all continents, such multilateral agreements are particularly important because they give legal recognition also to Catholic universities, allowing their students to finish their studies abroad and to find a job in another country, in this case in Africa. It is therefore, not surprising that the Holy See, as the only sovereign subject of international law, has not only ratified the four Continental Conventions of UNESCO (Europe/North America/Australia, Asia/Pacific, Africa and Latin America), but that during the last ten years it has also actively collaborated in the drafting of the texts of the second generation of the same Conventions.
The educational presence of the Church
As in the Tokyo Convention for Asia and the Pacific, the Convention for Africa also recognizes the educational presence of the Catholic Church in Africa, not as a service provided from abroad, but as an authentic expression of African higher education, assigning to the Holy See, in the text of the Convention, the same rights as the African States members of UNESCO.
UNESCO's thanks to the Holy See
Also present at the ceremony was Fr. Friedrich Bechina, Undersecretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education and member of the Holy See Delegation at the 40th Session of the General Conference. As the Holy Father recalls in the Ratification Document, it was the Undersecretary himself who, on 12 December 2014 on behalf of the Holy See, signed the Convention after having edited the last version of the text with a small commission of experts, during the international conference of States convened by UNESCO.
Recognizing the great experience and competence of the Holy See in the field of higher education, UNESCO has included its representatives in the editorial committees of all the recently updated continental Conventions and, in particular, the Global Convention, which will be adopted during the 40th Session of the General Conference