Com­pas­sion­ate Uni­ver­si­ties Hold Out Hope

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Nation - Daisaku Ikeda

Ex­treme weather has been bring­ing de­struc­tion to dif­fer­ent parts of the world in re­cent years. If cli­mate change con­tin­ues to progress at this rate, the im­pacts will be even more dev­as­tat­ing. In ad­di­tion to re­sponses on the na­tional level, it is cru­cial to strengthen ac­tions by the in­dus­trial sec­tor and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

Vol­un­tary ef­forts be­ing made in this re­gard by uni­ver­si­ties around the globe are wor­thy of note. In July, as in­tense heat­waves swept through Europe, net­works rep­re­sent­ing more than 7,000 in­sti­tu­tions of higher ed­u­ca­tion jointly de­clared a Cli­mate Emer­gency, an­nounc­ing their com­mit­ment to ad­dress the crisis.

Amid the con­tin­ued es­ca­la­tion of global chal­lenges, our world ur­gently re­quires the kind of trans­for­ma­tive en­ergy that uni­ver­si­ties could of­fer through ed­u­ca­tion and re­search. I be­lieve the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN in 2015 can play a piv­otal role as a frame­work for their col­lec­tive ef­forts. The SDGs are 17 goals in­clud­ing abol­ish­ing poverty and to un­der­take cli­mate ac­tion that are es­sen­tial for build­ing a brighter fu­ture for hu­man­ity.

The UN Aca­demic Im­pact (UNAI), launched in 2010, cur­rently links more than 1,300 in­sti­tu­tions of higher ed­u­ca­tion in ap­prox­i­mately 140 coun­tries. In October 2018, UNAI an­nounced that it had des­ig­nated 17 uni­ver­si­ties as SDG Hubs mod­el­ling in­no­va­tive en­gage­ment re­lated to each of the 17 SDGs. For ex­am­ple, the Uni­ver­sity of Zurich was se­lected for SDG 13, Cli­mate Ac­tion, and Kristu Jayanti Col­lege in Ben­galuru for SDG 1, No Poverty. I urge that this mo­men­tum to­wards mak­ing the world’s uni­ver­si­ties hubs for the re­al­i­sa­tion of the SDGs be strength­ened.

Uni­ver­si­ties around the world could select the SDGs that are the par­tic­u­lar fo­cus of their ef­forts and ac­tively work for their achieve­ment, col­lab­o­rat­ing with the 17 SDG Hubs. I be­lieve that uni­ver­si­ties can serve as havens of hope and se­cu­rity in so­ci­ety and make cru­cial con­tri­bu­tions to the well-be­ing of hu­man­ity as a whole. That is why, in my ca­pac­ity as founder of Soka Uni­ver­sity, i have worked to pro­mote aca­demic exchange and have held di­a­logues on the so­cial mis­sion of uni­ver­si­ties with the heads of aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions around the world.

In con­nec­tion with the SDGs, an­other im­por­tant as­pect of the so­cial mis­sion of uni­ver­si­ties is the pro­mo­tion of ed­u­ca­tion for global cit­i­zen­ship. In June 2018, No­bel Peace Lau­re­ate Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and i is­sued a joint ap­peal to youth, in which we stressed the im­por­tance of the em­pow­er­ment of young peo­ple through ed­u­ca­tion for global cit­i­zen­ship and pro­posed the fol­low­ing three fo­cus ar­eas for such ef­forts:

1. Pro­mot­ing a com­mon aware­ness of a univer­sal sense of his­tory in or­der to pre­vent the rep­e­ti­tion of tragedies.

2. Pro­mot­ing the un­der­stand­ing that Earth is our com­mon home, where no one is to be ex­cluded on the ba­sis of dif­fer­ence.

3. Pro­mot­ing the hu­mane ori­en­ta­tion of pol­i­tics and eco­nomics, cul­ti­vat­ing the wis­dom needed to achieve a sus­tain­able fu­ture.

Uni­ver­si­ties are called to ful­fill their mis­sion as the op­ti­mal venues for this ed­u­ca­tional en­deav­our.

It has al­ways been my con­vic­tion that uni­ver­si­ties not only il­lu­mi­nate the fu­ture of their coun­tries but also serve as a cra­dle for pooling the wis­dom needed to cre­ate solutions and find new ap­proaches to the daunt­ing chal­lenges fac­ing our world.

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