2 March 2018

United Nations Academic Impact members in action

The United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) aligns institutions of higher education with the United Nations in supporting and contributing to the realization of United Nations goals and mandates. The information contained in this article was extracted from a selection of the latest activity reports submitted by UNAI member institutions.

2 March 2018 - Conferences, lectures, field trips, Model UN, scientific research, interaction with the diplomatic world and a close approach to the local communities and more: the broad range of activities and events in many parts of the world organized by the member institutions of the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) shows the commitment of these educational and research centers to the activities and concerns of the United Nations.

For the most recent reporting period (2016/2017), numerous UNAI member institutions have detailed how they have supported one or more of the ten principles of the initiative. This includes a range of practical activities carried out with the participation of teaching and administrative staff, researchers and students and, in some cases, the local community and general public.

United Nations observances such as the International Day of Peace, International Youth Day, International Women's Day, United Nations Day, World Environment Day and Human Rights Day were among those observances that were highly promoted. Mercy College, for example, invited the author and war survivor from the Democratic Republic of Congo Sandra Uwiringiyimana to talk about human rights standards and her story about how she survived a massacre in a refugee camp.

On the occasion of International Youth Day and in the framework of an anti-bullying awareness session, TKM College of Engineering invited an officer of the Indian Police Service to speak to a group of students. Mount Kenya University, for its part, celebrated the International Day of Peace at the Naivasha Maximum Security Prison with the participation of inmates, some of whom are actually teachers of their fellows, at the primary and secondary levels of education.

Other UNAI member institutions invited representatives of the diplomatic community to talk to their students about pressing global and international issues. McMaster University, for instance, hosted the Colombian Ambassador to Canada, who discussed the ongoing peace process in his country, in which the United Nations Mission that has been deployed there has a significant role.

Meanwhile, other member institutions engaged directly in multilateral dynamics. This is the case, for example, with Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, which on the margins of the twenty-second United Nations Climate Change Conference participated in an event about the collective university action needed to effectively promote sustainable development. This has been a special topic of discussion, along with other issues, in many of the Model UN conferences organized by UNAI member institutions.

As the Lalaji Memorial Omega International School puts it, Model UN conferences are “an effective instrument in learning various life skills needed to be an informed and responsible world citizen”. With the Sustainable Development Goals at the core of the United Nations activities and concerns, UNAI member institutions such as the Lovely Professional University have started to teach their own staff and academic community about these goals to further promote their achievement.

Highlighting the link with academia, CCLP Worldwide organized seminars and workshops to elaborate the connection between education and sustainability. The State University of New York at New Paltz offered a ‘UN Semester’ with an academic component and a practical field experience facilitated by weekly Friday trips to United Nations Headquarters in New York, where students participated in a series of briefings by United Nations officials.

Some member institutions of UNAI implemented programmes targeting vulnerable groups. For instance, the Providence College of Engineering hosted a creative arts festival for children from nine special schools in the Allepy and Pathanamthitta districts of India. In the same spirit, CMS College held an interactive session with students with autism from the Jyothis Special School in Kottayam, also in India.

Community impact drives many activities of UNAI member institutions. The Musaliar College of Engineering and Technology organized a camp where an experimental approach to learning was promoted to empower youth in applying their knowledge to their communities. Culture also plays a role, as noted by the Austrian Academy of Psychology, which was involved in a scientific study that measured personal endorsements of the UNAI principles among students from six countries.

Member institutions have also engaged in activities to encourage debate and research in major areas that are in focus in the United Nations. This is the case of the École Universitaire Internationale, which promoted gender equality and the fight against sexual violence. For its part, the UNAI ASPIRE chapter of CETYS Universidad organized conferences on non-violence and a photography contest on multiculturalism.

These are but a few examples of the many activities carried out by UNAI members. This initiative has attracted a large number of institutions from over 120 Member States of the United Nations that have decided to join a global academic network linked with the United Nations to help create a better world. For further details about the activities outlined in this article and more, you can take a look at a selection of activity reports in our website.