On 29 July 2021, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, highlighted during his message to the International Association of University Presidents Triennial Conference, the importance of institutions of higher education within the current global context. See the full text of the message, below:

The world is experiencing a challenge of enormous proportions - from the global health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to the climate crisis. We have all been affected.

And yet, these crises have created opportunities to enhance our resilience, strengthen our solidarity, and showcase solutions through the diverse work of universities.

Universities are at the forefront of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Institutions of higher education, as shown by the United Nations Academic Impact with its network of more than 1,400 institutions in over 140 countries, have helped millions of people in myriad ways.

Universities and their staff have promoted awareness of health and safety measures in multiple languages; produced and distributed personal protection equipment and ventilators; volunteered at hospitals, helped vulnerable communities; and conducted scientific research for vaccines and treatments – all in pursuit of the fight against the virus and recovering better together.

As university leaders and within the framework of the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP), you have made extraordinary efforts to make the transition towards virtual education while encountering massive digital gaps that prevail in many countries.

You have also made significant achievements in making higher education more inclusive, even during these uncertain times. Your emphasis on these priorities is reflected in the theme of this year’s IAUP Triennial Virtual Conference on Innovation and Inclusion.

We count on the leadership of universities and educational institutions to partner with the United Nations and other multilateral institutions, Governments at the local and national levels, and representatives of civil society, to contribute to enlightened and evidence-based solutions to the world’s problems.

We call on universities, through your teaching, research, and innovation, to continue to make a profound contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The United Nations looks forward to continuing our partnership with universities from all corners of the world.  I wish you all the best for this Conference.