To mark the beginning of the 10th anniversary year of United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), Chandigarh University in Mohali, India organized a two-day conference from 18-19 November, not only to celebrate the successes of this initiative, but also to discuss the way forward for higher education in addressing critical issues.  

Ambassador Federico Sales Lotfe, Ambassador of Mexico to India, Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar, former Indian Head of Mission to Sweden, Latvia and Kazakhstan and Ajeet N. Mathur, Professor at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad took the stage, followed by Prof. R.S. Bawa, Vice Chancellor of the host institution, Prof. Shiv K. Tripathi, Conference Chair.

Ramu Damodaran, Chief of United Nations Academic Impact, addressed conference attendees via video message. Prominent speakers at the event included diplomats, academics, government officials and representatives of international organizations. In addition to UNAI member institutions from India, the conference attracted presenters from Ghana, Malawi, the Republic of Korea, Qatar, Sri Lanka and Tunisia, as well as students from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Tanzania.

In the first plenary session, dedicated to reflections and perspectives about the work of UNAI over the past decade, speakers highlighted the need for more community engagement programs in universities and colleges, mainstreaming of sustainable development issues in higher education teaching and research, and strong and transparent collective action to ensure quality and relevance of higher education in long term sustainability efforts.

Different ways to incorporate multilateralism and the United Nations global agenda in higher education curriculum and pedagogy in a more impact-focused manner, were addressed during the second plenary session, including various suggestions on how to encourage multi-stakeholder dialogue in universities. At the third and final plenary session, this was further expanded with a discussion on focused action-plans in universities to mainstream the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in higher education.

Eight action projects carried out and developed by college students to take the fundamental principles of UNAI to their own communities in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab and Maharashtra were showcased during the conferences, demonstrating the critical relevance of students in the actual implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the university level and in grassroots activities beyond college campuses. There was also a presentation of nine papers related to the different dimensions of higher education and sustainable development.

A new initiative focused on advancing the sustainability agenda called ‘SDG Choupal’ was launched at the conference as well, with the participation of major stakeholders.  The initiative highlights the role of volunteer and community-based action to achieve the SDGs.

Prof. Shiv K. Tripathi, Conference Chair, stressed that the participation of a wide range of stakeholders from different countries made the event a success. “While celebrating great success of UNAI, this 10th anniversary year conference has set a momentum for further action-agenda setting to mainstream sustainable development in higher education and research for larger good, Prof. Tripathi highlighted.

The conference was the first event that took place to mark the 10th anniversary year of UNAI, with the aim of strengthening social responsibility of academic institutions across the world. A book comprising selected contributions during the event will be released in 2020.

Learn more about Chandigarh University here.