Western forges links to UN sustainability goals

Western has become one of two universities in Canada as signatories to United Nations-linked group to support sustainable development through education and research.

More than 75 institutions from 10 countries have signed an agreement between the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and members of the Association of Public Land Grant Universities. The agreement affirms Western’s shared commitment to global engagement in solving the world’s most pressing problems and reaching towards sustainable development goals.

“It recognizes and requires we change the world for the better in an environmentally responsible way,” said Julie McMullin, Vice-Provost (International). “It suggests part of the university’s responsibility is that we educate students who can live and work in a global world.”

The commitment also helps hone the supports needed to engage with sustainable development goals as mandated by the United Nations, she said. That includes issues such as environmentalism, poverty eradication and education.

Dalhousie University is the other Canadian university signatory.

These efforts are already underway at Western and are built into events and initiatives such as Western Heads East and the Global Minds Initiative, among many others.

The global focus is also evident in the World’s Challenge Challenge, an international competition hosted by Western in which teams from more than a dozen universities offer up their best solutions to urgent environmental, educational and social issues.

With the World’s Challenge Challenge in its fourth year, Western competitors present their ideas to a panel on campus (in February), before the best of their ideas advances to the global competition at Western in June.

Working on interdisciplinary initiatives – both with International students at Western and with Western students taking on global issues here and abroad – makes Western better and strengthens global citizenry, McMullin said.

“This is really an exciting initiative because it’s generating global university support for the good of humankind.”

*   *   *

International Week at Western takes place from Nov. 12-16, with a focus on celebrating diversity, highlighting international research and exploring international learning opportunities to help students  become more globally aware and engaged.  There are currently 4,500 international students from 121 countries studying at Western; and more than 2,200 students go abroad each year through international learning programs in over 40 countries.

Highlights of the week: