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U.N. chief stresses role for scholars in global challenges

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized the role of the academic community in tackling global challenges and praised Korean universities for contributing to the nation’s economic development and democracy.

At the U.N. Academic Impact Forum in Seoul on Wednesday, he also stressed the responsibility of academics in solving major challenges in the global society, such as climate change, poverty and empowering women.

“(The) academic community can and should help the international community connect the dots (regarding these issues),” he said. “Explore how we can make an impact, and this time it is academic impact.”

He urged the academic world to help promote sustainable development ― lifting people out of poverty while working on environmental concerns, which is also the priority of his second five-year term as U.N. chief.

The UNAI Forum is co-organized by the Korean Council for University Education, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Ban launched the event three years ago in order to cooperate with universities solving worldwide problems such as climate change, water shortages and famine.

“This is the first time that the academic world and the United Nations ever tried to cooperate in addressing global challenges,” said Kim Young-gil, president of the KCUE, at the forum.

The U.N. chief has urged institutions of higher education to implement 10 universal values in the areas of human rights, literacy and conflict resolution as part of their curriculum. A total of 675 universities are taking part in the initiative worldwide and there are 47 Korean universities committed to following the UNAI initiative.

Korean universities are supporting one of the 10 principles, “capacity building for higher education systems,” and college students took part in the effort, creating a student program “ASPIRE” (UNAI Action by Students to Promote Innovation and Reform through Education) in May.

The three-day forum, themed “Partners for Change: U.N. and the World Academic Community,” will hold four different sessions and a student forum.

By Lee Woo-young (