With the support of the Rockefeller Foundation and the partnership of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), George Mason University as a founding member launched the University Global Compact (UGC) last month.
The UGC is a collaborative platform of global universities and other higher education associations in partnership with the United Nations and other stakeholders to create a more sustainable future for all. Members of the UGC are encouraged to leverage the framework of the “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) and find ways to incorporate achieving these goals through their education, research, and service missions.
The University Global Compact was birthed when higher education leaders from around the world gathered and reached a consensus that universities not only have an opportunity, but an obligation, to do whatever is in their power to educate and inspire students to play an active role in addressing the most pressing issues confronting our world today, produce new ideas that can lead to new solutions, and collaborate with other organizations to create awareness, support, and even lead local and global efforts.
Over 150 people attended the UGC launch ceremony which was held at the Rockefeller Foundation Offices in New York City on September 22 on the fringe of the annual United Nations General Assembly.
Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, University Presidents, senior administrators, and faculty champions from around the world attended the event. Ban Ki-moon emphasized that universities exist not just to educate, but also to guide, reminding attendees of the collective responsibility to teach students about the 17 SDGs and thus become aware of solutions and have hope for the future.
Other speakers included the President of the Rockefeller Foundation, Rajiv Shah; President of the UN Foundation, Kathy Calvin; Executive Director of UNITAR, Nikhil Seth; President of George Mason University, Ann Holton; President of Yonsei University, Yong Hak Kim; and President of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Angel Cabrera. The event was organized by George Mason University’s Chief Business Officer, Gbemi Disu in partnership with Rockefeller.
"Students from around the world this week are reinforcing the need for global action to sustain our earth, its beauty, and its resources. As a university leader I am grateful to them and to United Nations leaders in setting ambitious Sustainable Development Goals to guide us all. George Mason University is excited to join other universities in the forefront of supporting this work through the University Global Compact," said Anne Holton, President of George Mason University.
Former George Mason President, Ángel Cabrera, also shared remarks: “Universities around the world are essential in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals: they conduct research that can lead to new solutions, they educate professionals and leaders who are prepared to enact those solutions, and they are trusted conveners of other stakeholders. It is exciting to see higher education getting organized to better collaborate in support of the Goals and the 17 Rooms event hosted by Rutgers University will help us identify ways to have the greatest possible impact.”
"Universities must play the most crucial role in solving urgent global problems that undermine the well-being and sustainability of humankind through education and research. As president of Yonsei University in Korea, I am extremely pleased to be a part of the initiative to launch University Global Compact, a platform that will bring universities around the world together to address these problems as partners and friends," said Yong-Hak Kim, President of Yonsei University.
The launch ceremony was followed by the inaugural “17 Rooms U” on the 23rd, which brought together almost 200 university and educational association leaders along with faculty champions to develop new ideas and collaborations as well as identify tangible actions that their institutions can undertake to advance the SDGs and measure progress.
The event was co-organized by George Mason University and Rutgers University – Newark. Event partners included Yonsei University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Brookings Institute, and UNITAR. “17 Rooms-U” is an exercise pioneered by the Brookings Institute and modified to focus on educational institutions. It is aimed at fostering action-oriented conversations and collaboration on the SGDs. Participants were assigned to 17 separate rooms based on their subject matter expertise to align with the 17 SDGs. In each room, a facilitator posed a set of questions to guide conversations and enrich discussions. The deadline set for reaching these goals is 2030 and participants’ goals are to engage in dialogues and solutions for reaching SDG goals before the 2030 deadline.
In her special address during the event, Mason Korea’s Chief Business Officer, Gbemi Disu, stated: “It is exciting to see the large turnout for both events which underpins the importance of what the platform represents and the need for universities to have a seat at the table when discussions of this magnitude are being held around the world. This is just a first step in building momentum globally amongst universities and associations around the world to galvanize action for global prosperity and I look forward to seeing how these discussions generate actions that make an impact.”
October 21, 2019