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Statement by Dr. Anna Tibaijuka on the Occasion of the Opening of the Pan-African Conference on the Training of Translators, Conference Interpreters and Public Service Interpreters
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Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,  

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to welcome you all to the Gigiri complex for what promises to be a very fruitful time of reflection and discussion on a subject matter that is at the core of our activities as international organizations. I do recognize that we all have different roles to play, but whether you are a trainer or a user of the services rendered by our language specialists, the training of these specialists, particularly in the most sought after language combinations, should be a matter of great interest to us all. 

Indeed, the last ten years or so have seen a shift in the market with fewer qualified language staff available to an ever increasing number of international organizations. Supply has not kept pace with demand. All of us have therefore experienced challenges in meeting our demands in the areas of translation and interpretation and certainly, the problem has been felt more acutely on this continent.

Today, we have broken new ground in convening this pan-African conference on the training of translators and interpreters as it is a first in Africa and even though the results of our joint efforts will not be felt immediately, this succession planning process will leave a worthy legacy for the coming generations. This initiative also fits into our programme of outreach to universities and the presence of many representatives of learning institutions at this conference, is a testimony of the importance they attach to the proper preparation of language professionals. 

For a long time now, we have lamented the lack of suitably qualified language staff on the African continent, while at the same time recognizing the difficulties encountered by aspiring African translators and interpreters to get specialized training from those institutions in the west providing what they need. This imbalance is highlighted in the report by Mr. Noel Muylle, the consultant who prepared the research work on this project, through the example of the Geneva-based International Association of Conference Translators (AITC), which with a membership of approximately 450 translators, records only 4 of them as having their professional domicile in Africa!   The situation is no rosier for the interpreters.

This project to set up training programmes of international standards in African universities is intended to address those needs head on, and it is worth noting that the initiative was recently hailed by the United Nations General Assembly in its draft resolution A/C.5/63/L15 on the Pattern of conferences, as a step in the right direction.

I am happy to note the active participation in the project of universities from within and outside the African continent. This kind of cooperation and involvement are key to the success of the programme as they will ensure due international recognition of the qualifications and enhance the status of African language staff on the international market.  I also note that provision has been made for the involvement of experienced professional translators and interpreters in the study programmes. In that regard, I would like to express appreciation to the three trainers who have offered to kick-start the process by sharing their training skills with the professionals operating in this region.  

It goes without saying that appropriate support from international organizations located both on the African continent and elsewhere is an essential cog in the wheel. I am therefore delighted to see representatives of so many organizations and institutions here and express the hope that time will be set aside during this conference to reflect on the kind of support which is needed and how it can be mobilized.   

Once again, I welcome you to the United Nations Office at Nairobi and I wish you every success in your deliberations. I now declare open this Pan-African Conference on Training of Translators, Conference Interpreters and Public Service Interpreters.   

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