26 June 2020

UN75: Education for Advancing the UN Mission and Values

2020 marks the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.  To commemorate this milestone, United Nations Academic Impact has asked academics, educators and leading figures in the fields of science, technology and innovation to share their views on the multilateral experiment born of war to foster peace, what they see as the role of the organization in the 21st Century and beyond, and what the world might look like in 25 years when the UN celebrates its 100th anniversary. UNAI will be running this series throughout the year and invite you to engage in the global conversation using #UN75 and #ShapingTheFuture.

This article was contributed by Jarrett Jobe, Executive Director of Student Leadership at the University of Central Oklahoma.

When the United Nations commences the 2020 General Assembly, the world will observe 75 years of diplomacy, global partnerships, and unprecedented change in the international community. Hindsight will allow for the world to take inventory of the service and commitment of countless individuals who have dedicated their life’s work to peace, remaining steadfast to the guiding principles of the UN Charter. Foresight over the next 75 years may prove more difficult.

During times of upheaval and change, humans can regress to fear and doubt, creating an environment where isolationism and self-interest take root. Yet our global history has shown us these tendencies do not produce the bounty necessary to sustain global progress.  The greatest challenges our world is facing have little reverence for borders and myopic visions. The successes our world has experienced are defined through collaboration and partnerships, recognizing our greatest asset is connecting human talent and spirit with each other. The strength of the UN and the global community lies in this inclusive approach and our guiding principles must remain embedded in our daily work.

Collaboration and partnerships are far reaching at the UN due to the litany of opportunities and challenges our world is experiencing.  Each of these endeavors engage in tremendous efforts worthy of praise and recognition but also require a foundational ingredient for success – education. Education has been and remains at the center of the UN’s focus, and as we look to the future, we must take leverage best educational practices, develop innovative pathways to attainment, and increase the capacity and reach of institutions, NGOs, and the consortia of civil society moving education forward.

Our new normal of accelerated change and disruption impacts these efforts. The world continues to flatten, and technology has created new platforms for learning while also addressing challenges of access and delivery. Globalization has also lifted the veil on egregious violations of core UN principles that must be addressed to provide equitable opportunities for all. Education and its partners will be our best hope at shaping the continuous forces of globalization and will enable us to guide what we learn, how we learn, and where we learn.

Educational partnerships are integral during this time of change can produce commendable outcomes across multiple levels of learning including primary, technical, and higher education institutions. Through the collision points provided by multi-institutional work across the globe, higher education can intentionally invest and develop experiences to produce a reservoir of talent ready to meet the needs of a rapidly changing workforce. These experiences include a number of high impact practices that can transform our students and communities. This includes academic course development and co-curricular experiences.  Universities have also adopted guiding principles related to global learning in accordance with UN principles. At the University of Central Oklahoma, we have integrated global and cultural development as one of our six core learning tenets. Large numbers of universities have created similar learning initiatives and entire departments are dedicated to creating globally engaged citizens. These partnerships can also provide tools, expertise, and resources to encourage communities with depressed economic situations and resource scarcity to engage in educational initiatives that would be absent otherwise.  

As a partner in the global community, higher education is an undeniable contributor. We recognize our responsibility in shaping our future together and we will continue to prioritize learning that produces holistic, global learning. For those who engage in the international community, we are at times forced to recognize that achievement and growth are incremental.  Issues continue to persist, but progress has been made. The post Millennium Development Goal report in 2015 described an 8% increase in access to primary education, from 83% to 91% of primary aged children, and a reduction of 43 million children who were not enrolled in primary education. During this same time period, the number of university and college students doubled worldwide. We cannot let this work be undone, we must remain steadfast in our commitment to educate the world. 

We can recall one of the world’s guiding voices for human rights, reconciliation, and mutual respect, Nelson Mandela. His recognition of the role learning institutions fulfill in the global environment is unequivocal when he proclaimed, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” For the UN to continue to reach for peace, self-actualization, and the dignity of all people, educational partnerships must remain at the center of international work. These efforts will connect educators, researchers, international practitioners, and most importantly, the next generation of students and leaders who will steward this work into the next century.   

To join the conversation on UN75 and learn more about the United Nations’ Charter and history, check out these resources: