World Forum of UNESCO Chairs: transfering knowledge to developing countriesParis - The aim of the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs programme launched in 1992 is to boost cooperation and solidarity between universities around the world in order to encourage a major transfer of knowledge to developing countries.
To mark its 10th anniversary and take a look at what has been achieved so far, UNTWIN is holding a World Forum of UNESCO Chairs from November 13 to 15 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. Some 1,000 people will take part, including heads of universities from all over the world, those running UNESCO Chairs, coordinators of UNITWIN networks, members of UNESCO national commissions and partners from civil society, the private sector and the media. At the Forum, students will recount their own experiences of inter-university networks and UNESCO Chairs.
The UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs programme was conceived as a way to boost training and research in higher education by building networks of universities and other institutions to encourage inter-university cooperation between researchers and professors and thus the transfer of knowledge to developing countries and those in transition.
Since it was set up, the programme has aroused great interest among member-states. The number of Chairs and inter-university networks rose from 17 in 1992 to more than 500 today in 113 countries. They were all established with formal agreements linking the institution to UNESCO.
Thousands of teachers and students all over the world are involved, but also major partners, such as NGOs and private firms, which provide substantial funding. UNITWIN projects received some $30 million in support over the past five years.
The programme works by initially encouraging universities, higher education and research institutions, both private and public, to twin with each other and sign scientific cooperation agreements. The universities are then asked to extend these agreements to other universities in order to set up networks. This helps some institutions, especially in developing countries, to break out of their isolation and improve their access to and use of the most up-to-date information and communications technology. It also helps forge academic partnerships that direct students towards subjects relevant to the needs of their countries.
The main aim of one of these university networks -- the Global Education Network Initiative (GENIe) -- is to provide education that incorporates humanistic and scientific disciplines and teaches people to live in accordance with sustainable development. It brings together decision-makers, scientists, postgraduates and high school students. GENIe has put together distance education courses on the importance of sustainable development. Students all over the world are thus linked through the Internet, putting together scenarios for the future based on their own local conditions. They then exchange their opinions and experiences.
The UNESCO Chairs, like the UNITWIN inter-university networks, cover all of UNESCO's areas of interest - education, human rights, sustainable development, cultural development and communication. One UNESCO Chair in Canada studies the philosophical basis of justice and democratic society, one in France is developing information and communication techniques, there is a Chair in Tunisia for a comparative study of religions, another looks at environmental water resources in Asia and the Mediterranean while one in Romania is centred on theatre and the culture of civilisations.
Whatever their field, the UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN networks are participating directly in the renewal and internationalisation of higher education through an exchange of methods, courses and training in line with the goal of the World Conference on Higher Education held in Paris in October 1998 - to build a new structure of cooperation between universities around the world.
Contact: Cristina L'Homme
Bureau of Public Information, Editorial Section
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