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Acceptance statement of Professor Anna Tibaijuka, Under Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT for the award of an a honorary degree by the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, 11 February 2010, Nairobi, Kenya
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11 February 2010, Nairobi, Kenya

Seeking Knowledge for Holistic Human Development

Excellency – Chancellor of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa
Vice Chancellor – Reverend Professor John Maviiri
Honourable Members of the University Council and Members of the Convocation
Your Eminence & Excellencies – Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops
Distinguished Invited Guests and Members of the Diplomatic Corps.
Faculty, Graduands and the community of the Catholic University

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is an honour and a privilege for me to receive this award in recognition of my contribution to learning and to the advancement of knowledge for holistic human development. I wish to convey my gratitude to the University Council for bestowing upon me this accolade. I take it as a tribute not only to what I have been blessed to do in my life, but also as a recognition of the centrality of holistic human development in teaching and learning; and indeed, in all vocations.

I stand here humbled by your gesture in many ways, but primarily because no noble feat can be accomplished by a single individual. I have always worked with others in the pursuit of making the world a better place. This honour, therefore, is a collective achievement, belonging to many people who have always persevered in the quest for knowledge and for contributing to human betterment.

I should admit that I am also inspired by the award, because it resonates with a message which the His Excellency, the Apostolic Nuncio forwarded to me from His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. In that message His Holiness invoked all of us to reflect on the theme: ‘If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation’. He urged us to understand our vocation and worth as human beings. More profoundly, he called attention to the holistic essence of our being, particularly in the relationship between the Creator, human beings and the created order. Quoting Psalm 8:4-5, he inspired us to wonder, and I quote:

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you have established; what is man that your are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

Your Eminence; Excellencies; Ladies and Gentlemen

In our infinite smallness as human beings in relation to the grand universe, this award is inspiring us to continue seeking the royal dignity and power bestowed upon us as stewards. I cherish this honour and I will strive to live up to it.

As a scholar, a civil society activist, and as an international civil servant and development practitioner, I have endeavoured to propagate and deploy knowledge which not only enhances the cognitive domain, important as it may be. Indeed, for knowledge to be liberating and fully empowering it needs also to develop the affective and spiritual domain of the human person. Devoid of values, norms, commitment and a sense of connection with the created order we lose compass and deny ourselves a sense of direction.

In addition to the cognitive and affective domain, we are admonished by the Book of Proverbs (24:14) to:

Know that such is wisdom for your soul!  If you attain it, there shall be a future; Your hope shall not be cut off.”

In this respect, knowledge has to enable us attain the future that we envision and to realize the hopes that we nurture. It has to provide us with the levers and initiative for change and transformation. These triple dimensions of knowledge have to empower us achieve our physical, social, political as well as our aesthetic and spiritual needs.

More concretely for me, and in my current responsibility, I have strived to make the human settlement agenda transcend the requirement for only a house. I have committed my team to situate our goals in the framework of the present conjuncture of human history but within the trajectory of the future. It is urban places which will soon be the dominant habitat of human-kind, even in Africa. In summary, my team and I have devoted our wholehearted attention to helping leaders at all levels understand the need for a holistic approach to development in a rapidly urbanizing world. It is precisely this understanding that will lead to interventions that will make urban places the nexus for sustainable development and place where all women, men and children will have the opportunity for better life.

While this goal is far from being attained, especially in Africa, there can be no loftier pursuit.

This award by the Catholic University of Eastern Africa inspires us to remain on that course and I am proud to be associated with it.

I thank you.

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