The ACU advocates for higher education as a key player in sustainable development at CHOGM 2022

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The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) took place in Kigali, Rwanda last week, with representatives of all 54 member countries attending the seven-day summit to address the shared global challenges we face.

Delegates embraced unity and collaboration to tackle issues that are at the heart of the Commonwealth’s values, such as gender equality, youth empowerment, sustainable economic development and climate action.

As an accredited Commonwealth organisation, we championed the role of higher education in sustainable development, outlined policy priorities for higher education and shaped the agenda on behalf of our members across the Commonwealth.

Throughout the week members of the ACU delegation participated in and chaired sessions across the forums and official meetings, providing an official voice for higher education, advocating for higher education’s vital role in delivering progress across all 17 UN SDGs and for the importance of investing in higher education to further strengthen this contribution.

Over the week at CHOGM we spoke with numerous government leaders about how the ACU’s global network brings together 500+ universities to tackle global challenges and drive development and prosperity in the Commonwealth.

Blended Learning and PEBL West Africa launch

The ACU and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade were delighted to officially launch our Partnership for Enhanced and Blended Learning (PEBL) West Africa project at CHOGM. We welcomed guests, partners and members to an evening reception and launch event.

Following the successful pilot programme in East Africa, the new Partnership for Enhanced and Blended Learning (PEBL) in West Africa will further increase access to higher education in countries where demand outstrips supply.

By supporting academics and students across 12 universities in Ghana and Nigeria, PEBL West Africa will build sustainable capacity for blended learning through expert-led training, collaboration, and the development of quality assured, credit-bearing blended courses.

Throughout the Business Forum, we advocated for the role of higher education in addressing challenges and opportunities for the future world of work. ACU ambassador Professor Ian Rowlands, University of Waterloo, moderated a panel discussion on future skills and employability with the Mastercard foundation, Princes’ Trust and others. Whilst ACU Council member Professor Francis Aduol of Technical University of Kenya represented the ACU on a panel to mark the launch of ACU member Coventry University’s Africa hub, discussing the role of education in the African Labour Market.

Sustainable urbanisation and climate action

Sustainable urbanisation and climate action was high on the agenda at CHOGM 2022. The ACU is a proud partner in the Commonwealth Sustainable Cities Initiative (CSCI) and was delighted to join the steering committee to launch the Commonwealth Youth for Sustainable Development network during the Commonwealth Youth Forum 2022.

This event was followed by a CSCI summit side event supported by the ACU. ACU delegates participated in the side event sessions, highlighting the important role that universities have in supporting sustainable urbanisation and contributing to related SDGs. The ACU’s Head of UN, Commonwealth & Strategic Partnerships, Richard Grubb, moderated a session exploring ways to address the gap in professional and leadership capacity in many of the Commonwealth countries which are urbanising most rapidly and are vulnerable to climate change.

A key milestone achieved following the side event was seeing the Sustainable Urbanisation Call to Action supported in the final CHOGM 22 communique with Commonwealth Heads of Government adopting a Declaration on Sustainable Urbanisation, that will provide a  guiding framework for the work of the Commonwealth over the coming period.

Announced at the conclusion of the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting along with the final communique, Commonwealth leaders also ratified a Living Lands Charter on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Land Degradation. ACU Chief Executive and Secretary General Dr Joanna Newman urged Commonwealth governments to draw upon higher education expertise and research to help deliver on the Charter commitments.

As part of the Commonwealth People’s Forum, the ACU held a workshop exploring the next iteration of the Commonwealth Futures Climate Research Cohort, exploring current priorities for research into Climate Change mitigation and adaptation. In 2021, the ACU and the British Council partnered to establish the Commonwealth Futures Climate Research Cohort, supporting 26 rising-star researchers to bring local knowledge to a global stage.

The ACU has also been working in partnership with the government of Antigua & Barbuda and the University of the West Indies (UWI) to support the development of a Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and the Blue Economy at the UWI’s recently established Five Islands Campus. At CHOGM, the ACU was pleased to meet with the Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda, Gaston Browne, and discuss the next steps in our partnership.

International mobility

We were delighted to be joined at CHOGM by a number of Commonwealth scholars and alumni, including Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholars, Chevening Scholars, and Commonwealth Scholars, who are actively solving global challenges, driving change in their communities, and collaborating to secure sustainability in the future.

Speaking at the Commonwealth Youth Forum, Head of Commonwealth Scholarships at the ACU, Annabel Boud, shared how the ACU fosters international collaboration on the SDGs between youth in the Commonwealth through our scholarship programmes – including the Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships, Chevening and Commonwealth Scholarships.


Foreign Ministers Roundtable

Deputising for ACU Chief Executive and Secretary General Dr Joanna Newman, the ACU’s Director of Strategic Communications, Beth Button presented at the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers roundtable, where she outlined higher education’s critical contribution to sustainable development and policy priorities for higher education.

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