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First Virtual United Nations Summer Academy to explore the "Future We Want”

By Patrick van Weerelt, Head of Office of the UNSSC Knowledge Centre for Sustainable Development

The UN Summer Academy, the flagship sustainable development learning event of the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC), has been held as a face to face event for the past eight years. With the travel restrictions surrounding the global pandemic, we have opted for a five-day virtual format, leveraging the opportunities offered by digital platforms, to help us translate the key features of the Summer Academy to an online space. The 9th UN Summer Academy, organized by the UNSSC’s Knowledge Centre for Sustainable Development in Bonn, will take place online from 24 to 28 August, 2020. 

As the world prepares to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, this year’s UN Summer Academy is themed around the vision of the “Future We Want”. Against the backdrop of the ongoing global health crisis, the programme will discuss not just the threats that face our world but also our chances to better understand and meet the needs of the present and future. The key message: we need renewed commitment to multilateralism and evidence-based optimism in humankind’s ability to create a world for all to thrive. 

In order to cater to the diversity of participants from across the world, and to encourage co-creation and peer learning, the programme uses an innovative combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions, relying on digital working spaces and online communication tools. 

Under-Secretary-General Fabrizio Hochschild, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Commemoration of the United Nations 75th Anniversary, will open this year’s UN Summer Academy. The agenda for the week features live webinars with multiple thought leaders, including Professor Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue, member of the independent group of scientists who authored the 2019 Global Sustainable Development report; Professor Imme Scholz, Deputy Director of the German Development Institute; and Dr. Irene Guijt, Head of Research, Oxfam Great Britain. Participants will carry their learnings from these inputs into working group sessions, where they will collaborate on video submissions for UN75’s global conversation. 

This first-ever virtual edition of the UN Summer Academy is made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia, which has not only enabled UNSSC to offer the course at a reduced rate, but also funded more than 50 full scholarships. As a result, over 100 participants representing 50 countries will connect for this immersive online learning event. 

While participants cannot physically come to Bonn in 2020, the virtual Summer Academy will retain its linkages to the city, which has hosted the UN Summer Academy since 2016. The sustainability hub is home to more than 20 different UN entities and programmes, as well as more than 150 international organisations working on sustainable development. Whether through expert inputs from Bonn-based development organisations and UN entities, or an online performance by the World BEAThoven project, participants will still have the opportunity to connect with our lively host city.

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  • Sascha Engst/Bundesstadt Bonn
  • Giacomo Zucca / Bundesstadt Bonn
  • Bundesstadt Bonn
  • Giacomo Zucca/Bundesstadt Bonn

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