The Colloquium, which drew over 800 participants from more than 110 countries, took as its special theme: “Universities as Centres of Research and Knowledge Creation: An Endangered Species”.
The Director-General began by highlighting the fundamental importance of this theme in today’s increasingly knowledge-based societies. “In this twenty-first century, access to knowledge and the ability to use it effectively are critical determinants of economic growth, sustainable development and social and political participation. Universities have a fundamental role to play in this context. Not only are they centres for the creation, application, and dissemination of knowledge. They also enable us to master this great resource, and ensure that it is used for the maximum benefit of all”. Mr Matsuura underlined that the role of this three-day Colloquium was to address how best to strengthen the world’s universities so they can better fulfil these important roles.
The Director-General situated the Colloquium’s work, and that of the UNESCO Forum more generally, within the context of the follow-up to the two World Conferences on Higher Education and Science, which UNESCO convened in 1998 and 1999 in Paris and Budapest respectively. These two Conferences forecast many of the emerging new trends in today’s society. They identified the enormous complexity of the challenges of today’s globalizing world, and the central role that knowledge – and knowledge institutions – would play in empowering individuals and societies to meet them. They also drew attention to the fact that while for certain sections of the world community globalization had created new opportunities for academic research and exchange, for too many others, it was leading to deeper marginalization, and widening disparities in access to higher education.
In addressing this research gap, Mr Matsuura drew attention to three critical issues. First, the delicate balance that needs to be struck between ensuring wider and more equitable access to knowledge, and facilitating the ongoing quest for new knowledge and expertise through advanced research. Second, the importance of increasing opportunities for academic networking, exchange and mobility, not only so that academics can work together to meet common challenges, but also in order to reinforce the human and institutional capacity of developing countries. The Director-General underscored that this “is essential if we are to develop locally relevant solutions to global problems, and to stem the brain drain of researchers to the developed world”. Thirdly, Mr Matsuura referred to the need to consider a major recasting of the higher education and research landscape, and in particular to recognize the potential of new models of higher education, such as virtual universities, university networks and cross-national higher education research.
In conclusion, the Director-General drew attention to the importance of higher education and research in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the Education for All agenda and other internationally agreed development targets. He referred in this context to the importance accorded to education and research in this year’s G8 Summit in St Petersburg, announcing that in follow-up to the G8’s recommendations UNESCO and the Italian government would organize next spring a World Forum on “Education, Innovation and Research: New Partnership for Sustainable Development”. Mr Matsuura congratulated the UNESCO Forum for addressing issues of such timely significance. He noted that UNESCO would take the Colloquium’s recommendations seriously into account as it proceeded with the formulation of its next Medium-Term Strategy (2008-2013), aimed at aligning the Organization’s work more sharply with Member States’ development needs.
Auteur(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N°189-2006 - Date de publication: 30-11-2006