More than 200 million children in countries around the world will not have a chance to begin a secondary education this year. Seventy-two million children will not even see the inside of a primary school classroom; 57 percent of these will be girls. In addition to limited educational opportunity, the quality of education provided to students also requires strengthening. Yet a projected global shortage of more than 15 million qualified teachers by 2015 poses a systemic challenge of resources and capacity. A new generation of leaders at the policy, academic, and grassroots levels are leading initiatives to expand access to education, improve existing education systems, better integrate technology into classrooms, and provide innovative higher education opportunities to economically disadvantaged groups. These movements are defining and improving the central role that schools and universities play in providing academic knowledge, values, and skills for economic and professional development.
Environment & Climate Change
Empirical scientific records and climate projections provide abundant evidence of the dire consequences that climate change already is having on both human societies and ecosystems. Yet in both the developed and developing world, CO2 and methane emissions continue to rise; hundreds of coal plants and superhighways remain on the drawing boards, and international consensus on a new global climate agreement appears elusive. Building on an increasingly global consensus, many universities, government institutions, and corporations worldwide have rallied together to find common solutions to our climate crisis. Throughout the world, a groundswell of eco-entrepreneurs and young climate leaders are expanding the renewable energy economy, creating green jobs, and accelerating progress towards a sustainable future.
Today, nearly 3 billion people in the world live on less than $2 a day, despite billions of dollars in foreign aid and multinational initiatives. This poverty is both a cause and consequence of inadequate education systems, too few job opportunities, social exclusion, political instability, violent conflict, food insecurity, demographic pressures, and human migration. Reversing these challenges will require a combination of creativity, perseverance, sound policies, and forward-looking leadership from the higher education community. Students and universities are working tirelessly to develop and scale new innovations in the fields of economic empowerment, affordable technologies, and agricultural development that will enable millions around the globe to lift themselves from poverty. Despite the current economic distress throughout the world, universities can inspire the technological innovation and the cross-sector collaborations that are necessary for sustainable economic security for all.
Peace & Human Rights
War, genocide, and other multi-national conflicts have killed or displaced millions of people in recent decades. Yet human rights abuses extend far beyond geopolitical and military conflicts alone. In times of both war and peace, violence against women and girls occurs at an alarming rate globally, with six out of every ten women experiencing physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. The institution of slavery has manifested itself in the modern form of human trafficking, exploiting the labor and dignity of millions of the world’s most vulnerable individuals. Many young leaders are taking action to address these issues and strengthen the foundations for peace around the world. Students have spearheaded awareness campaigns on human rights issues and also have worked to build communities of dialogue on and off campus, bringing together diverse ethnic, religious, and political groups to share ideas, find common solutions, take part in community service projects, and even play sports.
Our increasingly interconnected world enables health risks to spread quickly across national boundaries, linking the health of the world’s communities more closely than ever before. Exposures and health risks from shifting environmental conditions around the world disproportionately affect disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, particularly young children. And chronic diseases – heart disease, cancer, and diabetes – continue to rise as global demographics continue to shift. Students have been at the forefront of the movement to advance responses to global health challenges and to expand access to essential services and medicines and exploring innovative health solutions, particularly in developing nations. These efforts can improve both the quality and availability of health services around the globe, often at costs much lower than currently incurred.