27 February 2014, Geneva, Switzerland - The occasion marked the final step in a rigorous, yearlong Executive Master’s degree programme in Development Policies and Practices (DPP) undertaken by twenty Afghan officials. They were joined by additional participants from DPP’s regional academic centres in Central Asia, Africa and South East Asia, comprising a total of 40 participants attending the 3rd and final session of the DPP programme. The Afghan regional programme was developed in joint cooperation between the Ministry of Finance, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies.

Afghan graduates

The graduation ceremony was held at Maison de la Paix in Geneva, the Graduate Institute’s ultra-modern campus noted for its distinctive cluster of steel and glass curved buildings shaped like flower petals.

In her remarks to the graduating class, Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNITAR, Ms. Sally Fegan-Wyles, warmly congratulated the degree recipients and praised their dedication and resolve, recalling how hard it was to study while working. Ms. Fegan-Wyles observed, “I remember how difficult it was to switch my mind from the everyday practical problem solving world in Malawi—where I took up my first UN assignment—to the world of theory and concepts. It took me several months to make the adjustment. You have all had to make that adjustment every day, as you turned to your books each evening after a long and difficult day’s work. This must have been very hard, and you all deserve our deepest admiration.”

Keynote Speaker and Minister of Finance, Dr. Omar Zakhilwal spoke of the challenges of post-conflict reconstruction and the critical difference that education has made in developing a young, dynamic pool of home grown talent not only within the Ministry of Finance (MoF) but in the Afghan government as a whole. The Minister also extended his heartfelt congratulations to diploma recipients from Central Asia, South East Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Mr. Zakhilwal also spoke of the key role of UNITAR in bringing to fruition his idea for a customized Executive Master’s degree to build the capacity of his Ministry, and singled out the Local Development Programme (LDP) for its key role in realizing the initiative.

Following his address, Dr. Zakhilwal presented diplomas to Ministry of Finance degree recipients, several wearing striking traditional attire, who shook hands and posed for pictures with the Minister. H.E. Dr. Nanguyalai Tarzi, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Mr. Wayne McCook, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Jamaica were also present to witness the achievements of graduates from their respective countries, along with senior officials from the Permanent Missions of Ghana and Afghanistan.

Earlier in the morning discussions were held UNITAR's Headquarters between Ms. Fegan-Wyles, the Minister and Director of Human Resources at the Afghan Ministry of Finance, Mr. Musa Kamawi. Following a briefing on the entire Executive Master’s programme by UNITAR's LDP Manager, Alex Mejia, Dr. Zakhilwal expressed his satisfaction with the results and signed an exchange of letters formalizing the second edition of the programme set to begin in the second quarter of 2014.

Photo: UNITAR Executive Director (center) Ms. Sally Fegan-Wyles, Minister of Finance, Dr. Omar Zakhilwal (center) and MoF Human Resources Director, Mr. Musa Kamawi in a brown suit, are flanked by Afghan Ministry Executive Master’s degree recipients.