25 May 2018

Role of universities in global citizenship addressed during seminar at UN Headquarters

With the collaboration of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) member institution Al Farabi Kzakh National University (KazNU) co-organized the event entitled "Educating younger generations on global citizenship through intercultural literacy" that recently took place at United Nations Headquarters in New York. This article features some highlights of the event.

25 May 2018 - On 2 May 2018, United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) member institution Al Farabi Kazakh National University (KazNU) together with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), and with the support of the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the United Nations, co-organized an event to discuss the challenges of the formation of global citizenship, especially among the younger generation.

The role of institutions of higher education in this process and the new approaches required to build bridges between cultures were key aspects of the discussion. The event served as a platform for panellists and guests to discuss ways to promote cross-cultural exchanges at the university level in order to engage younger generations on global citizenship and on the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In that regard, Nassir Abdulaziz Al Nasser, High Representative for the UNAOC, highlighted that education "is important in providing the skills, knowledge, attitudes and values to individuals to understand interdependence, inequalities, and exclusion in the dynamic world, and commits to transform the world to achieve greater justice, equity, and human rights for all". Nations "must recognize the need for more inclusive education about the world and its people", he added.

The Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the United Nations, Kairat Umarov, said that "the diversity of the world offers many lessons to young generations" but education must play a role. "In light of the numerous problems of today and if we want to solve them collectively, we have to learn how to be global citizens together", stressed Ambassador Umarov.

"I call for the young generations to be active in fulfilling their future roles as leaders of this planet”, he concluded. In this line, Professor Galym Mutanov, rector of KazNU, emphasized that "universities of the world should unite to develop concrete steps to educate youth in the spirit of humanistic values, which is in line with the goals of the United Nations". "This is the experience and initiatives of KazNU", he said.

Professor Mutanov also showcased a new model of university development based on ideas of the philosopher Al-Farabi that were anchored in the notion of a "virtuous society". According to him, "the mission of the modern university includes the formation of young people as virtuous citizens of the world with high spiritual and moral qualities and an active civil position, something especially relevant in the context of globalization and the rapid development of new technologies".

Omar Hernández, representative of UNAI, observed that among UNAI concerns is the "commitment to encouraging global citizenship through education”. "We need global citizens to address global issues, but we also need to think and to act globally, while at the same time rethinking how we understand education to prepare young people to deal with today’s interconnected world." UNAI member institutions were responding to this need by organizing and implementing a range of activities and initiatives, as reported by them on an annual basis.

Other speakers at the event included representatives of the Kazakh Scientific Institute for Cultural Research and the Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations, the Assistant General Secretary for United Nations and International Affairs of the United Methodist Church, Liberato Bautista, the Executive Director of ARTE - Youth Development and Human Rights through Education, Marissa Gutierrez-Vicario, and Professor Rafal Szczurwoski from the City University of New York (CUNY).