February 1, 2013
Friday February 1st: The Humpty Dumpty Institute’s Higher Education Alliance was proud to host Wilkes University’s visit to the United Nations, for a behind-the-scenes fact-finding mission on the United Nations Development Program and its economic and sustainable development initiatives. Wilkes University students had the opportunity to learn about the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 Development Agenda, sustainable development, environmental protection, and even careers at the UN firsthand from leading UN officials.
Wilkes began the day’s program with a “Classroom Conversation” with UN Academic Impact, where students from Kazakhstan joined Wilkes for a roundtable discussion about climate change and student activism in the UN Secretariat with Mr. Dan Shepard, the UN’s top focal point for sustainability issues. Mr. Shepard began the conversation stating “governments don’t take action on things that people don’t support at home,” asserting activism as the fundamental root of governmental action. He then asked, “How much outrage and passion is there for doing something about climate change? How do we take action to the next level?” Students acknowledged such activism as slowly growing momentum, noting that until climate change has a personal impact on the public, it will continue to remain distanced from the political sphere.
Wilkes Political Science professor spoke about the university’s recycling campaign. In the sphere of climate change activism Mr. Shepard noted, “What we do together can add up to a lot, what we do by ourselves won't solve the problem,” acknowledging that the next frontier for climate activism surely lies on college campuses around the world.
Next, Wilkes had a special briefing from and about the United Nations Development Program, followed by a deeper look into priority issues on UNDP’s agenda. Speakers Maty Ndiaye, Policy and Knowledge Management Specialist, and Uyanga Gankhuyag of the Poverty Group, Bureau for Development Policy, addressed the complexity and challenges of economic development, and introduced the post-2015 development agenda. Ms. Gankhuyag asked the students what issues they would like to see tackled in the post-2015 framework, “What challenges do we face?” The students placed education and poverty at the top of their agendas, and expressed the need to confront these and other global issues with a cultural context.
Following an official tour of the UN, Wilkes joined Narinder Kakar, Permanent Observer to the United Nations for International Union for the Conversation of Nature and the University of Peace to discuss practical approaches for gaining hands-on experience working with the UN in economic and sustainable development. Mr. Kakar shared insight and experience of over 30 years' work with UNDP, both in New York and at country level, as UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, and his current work with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the University of Peace. He encouraged students to explore the possibilities of working with current aid programs and offered methods of becoming involved in international work, including, the UN Competitive Exam, and the Foreign Service Junior Officer program.
Continuing with the briefing’s emphasis on education and economic development, Ms. Gina Guillan, Minister Counsellor from the Costa Rican Mission spoke about current initiatives and programs on sustainable development in Costa Rica. Ms. Guillan elaborated on the correlation between education and development, noting that Costa Rica, with one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America, is developing at the same rate.
The day concluded with a visit to the United States Mission to the United Nations, to learn why international economic development is in US national interests, and how the US works with the UN to implement policies that further the greater, global good. Ms. Mille Meyers spoke about using the power of social media to “signal change, before individuals, even within the nation, know the whole story.” Robert Marks, Advisor at the US Mission, informed students of the role of the US Mission to the UN, the US-UN relationship, and the complexity of balancing national interests with global cooperation initiatives.
Andrew P. Miller, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Wilkes University, commented that the students overall had a great time during their visit to the UN. He found that particularly important from a student perspective was the emphasis the presentations placed on global careers. Michael Connelly, a junior at Wilkes, visited the UN for the first time and found that experiencing the UN firsthand has peaked his interest in finding ways to join and assist in UN activities, “I found it more beneficial to learn about the UN activities firsthand than in a classroom.”
For more information about the UN and its development goals and initiatives, please visit: