Recognizing the invaluable role academic institutions can play in strengthening the work of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of The United Nations and his staff launched “Academic Impact” on November 18, 2010. Academic Impact is a new partnership between over 500 academic institutions from 90 countries and the U.N. to use scholarship, innovation, and ideas in the service of finding solutions to world problems of hunger, conflict resolution, literacy, human rights, access to education, poverty, sustainability, etc. Academic Impact will serve as a clearinghouse to match academic innovation with the specific work areas of the U.N.
CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies and Kingsborough Community College are now members of Academic Impact, and both represented the City University of New York at the November 18-19 official launch of this venture at the United Nations. Over 300 university presidents, faculty members and students gathered at U.N. Headquarters for the launch of Academic Impact. Representing CUNY Baccalaureate were Deputy Director Beth Kneller and academic advisors Rafal Szczurowski and Helene Brown. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the conference saying “…Departments are coming together to create interdisciplinary degrees…By sharing ideas, across borders and disciplines, we can find solutions to the interconnected problems that cause so much suffering. Climate change is not just an environmental threat, it is closely tied to poverty; poverty is not just about jobs, it is directly related to food security; food security has an impact on health; health affects generations of children; children hold the key to our future; and education can lead to progress on all these fronts…” The Secretary General went on to say: “Ideas bring the United Nations to life. A single idea can generate a breakthrough that saves millions of lives. A new technology can spare whole populations from hardship. Even a theory can unlock action for peace.” (His entire speech can be found here: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2010/sgsm13255.doc.htm).
Over the course of the two day conference, institutions from around the globe cited their current activities in working to combat hunger, poverty, illiteracy, etc. It was most inspiring to hear of the Brazilian university that has adopted its nation’s poorest town, of the Chinese university working to combat illiteracy in rural areas, and of the Mexican university striving toward goals of national sustainability. We also heard several presentations on the importance of higher education and UN values from United Nations staff: Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, spoke about her work in the field and challenges for educational institutions in war-torn areas. Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary General for Policy Planning, spoke about the interconnectedness of global issues, and a representative from the Department of Political Affairs discussed the advisory role of academia in research, advising, and analysis utilized by his Department.
As CUNY’s University-wide interdisciplinary degree, and because of our specific progress in educating students to be leaders in Sustainability (see http://cunyba.gc.cuny.edu/sustainability/), CUNY Baccalaureate hopes to be an important contributing member in Academic Impact.
For more about the U.N. Academic Impact, see http://academicimpact.org/index.php
To follow Academic Impact on Facebook, go to http://www.facebook.com/#!/ImpactUN
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