UN Secretary-General visit shortened due to quake

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will arrive on Yale’s campus today to chair the fourth annual Global Colloquium of University Presidents.

But because of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday, Ban will only stay through the opening ceremonies on Thursday and part of the morning Friday. The colloquium will continue without him throughout the rest of Friday.

The Colloquium, which was begun in 2005 by Ban’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, brings together presidents and vice-chancellors from leading universities around the world to talk about issues of concern to the United Nations and the global community. The UN also solicits advice and guidance from university administrators and top-ranking scholars, University President Richard Levin said. This year’s topic is “The Roles of Science in Meeting Global Challenges.”

“When Yale was approached by the Secretary-General’s office five years ago, we thought it would be a useful public service,” said Levin, who is hosting the event this year.

New York University, Columbia University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale are the co-sponsors and rotating hosts of the event. This year’s colloquium will be the first in New Haven.

Ban, the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations, is South Korean. Immediately before his election as Secretary-General in 2007, he served as Korea’s minister of foreign affairs and trade, focusing on improving the relationship between North and South Korea, and in 1992 he served as vice-chair of the South-North Joint Nuclear Control Commission. Before becoming Secretary-General, he worked for many years in the Foreign Ministry’s United Nations Division.

The keynote speakers at the conference will include Dr. Bruce Alberts, head of the InterAcademy Council and former president of the National Academy of Sciences; Professor Phillip Griffiths, former director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton; and Chris Field, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Field’s talk will discuss the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as an example of successful international collaboration to address problems through science, he said in an e-mail to the News.

“Problems in science and technology are at the core of the issues that need to be addressed [as part of] the UN’s humanitarian goals,” he said.

The conference addresses a different subject each year. Last year, at Princeton, university and United Nations officials discussed issues of free speech and academic freedom.

Ernesto Zedillo, director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and former president of Mexico, will chair a discussion about the role of science in public policy as part of the Colloquium.

Representatives of Fudan University and Tsinghua University in China, National University of Singapore, Jawaharlal Nehru University in India, University of Cape Town in South Africa, the University of Ghana, Makerere University in Uganda, Bilkent University in Turkey, Colegio de Mexico and Tec de Monterrey in Mexico and the University of Oxford and UCL in the United Kingdom are slated to attend the Colloquium.

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