19 November 2010
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Launch of United Nations Academic Impact


In an effort to bolster “intellectual social responsibility” for such global goals as promoting human rights, protecting the environment and ending wars, the United Nations had partnered with institutions of higher learning around the world in a new initiative called Academic Impact, Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, said today at a Headquarters press conference.

Mr. Akasaka said that since Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s formal launch of the initiative at Headquarters on Thursday, 167 representatives from 40 countries had participated in a two-day series of related conferences, seminars and other activities to share ideas on how to match academic innovation with the work of the United Nations.  Academic Impact gave active support to 10 universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, literacy, sustainability and conflict resolution, all of which were based on the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Millennium Development Goals targets, he said.

Each participating college or university was expected to engage in one activity or project annually in support of those principles, he continued, adding that in 2011, the United Nations would set up 10 hubs, one for each principle, to serve as focal points to receive and disseminate ideas among participating universities.  Academic Impact would also contribute to the Economic and Social Council’s Annual Ministerial Review on education in July.  With close to 500 members in more than 90 countries, the new initiative aimed to promote a culture of intellectual superiority, serving as a point of contact for ideas and proposals relevant to the United Nations mandate, and foster direct engagement by institutions in programmes, projects and initiatives for the realization of the Millennium Goals and other United Nations objectives.

Michael Adams, President of Farleigh Dickinson University, the first university to join Academic Impact, said the initiative had been formed at a time when the world was facing enormous challenges.  “The only path to a prosperous and peaceful future is an education,” he said.  Noting that the twentieth century had been the bloodiest in history, and that the beginning of the twenty-first was marked by destructive conflicts and a global financial crisis, he said the human race had the destructive ability to wreak extinction upon itself, warning:  “We’ve got to get it right for the next generation.”

Patrick Ip, Vice President of the Student Association at the University of Chicago, said Academic Impact would bring together all stakeholders to discuss ways to move forward, a challenge traditionally tackled by university presidents.  Students had the energy and innovation to chart a new course, he said, noting that, through social media such as Twitter and Facebook, those participating in Academic Impact could reach out and affect the lives of millions.

Guo Shan, Chair of the Alliance of Asia-Pacific Region Orchestras and the China Symphony Development Foundation, said that as part of Academic Impact’s official launch, 68 musicians from 14 countries and representing 19 symphony orchestras would give a classical concert later in the day to promote awareness of global challenges, particularly environmental degradation.

Asked about Academic Impact’s influence on Member States in solving pressing crises over Palestine and Iran, among others, Mr. Adams said simple, straightforward solutions had yet to be found.  The next generation must be given the skill sets to solve global problems, he stressed, pointing out that young people must learn to understand that two people in different parts of the world could see the same thing differently and both could still be right.   “If we can give the next generation the ability to understand that you have to look at the problem through the eyes of others and that you don’t own the answer, maybe that’s part of the solution”, he said, stressing the importance of changing behaviour to create a generation of effective leaders.

Mr. Akasaka noted that several universities were carrying out studies on environmental conservation, human rights, peace and security, independently of United Nations efforts, and Academic Impact would provide them with a forum for pooling ideas, sharing best practices and improving their activities.

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For information media • not an official record