The raising of the United Nations flag and a series of enlightening talks formed the basis of the University of Bedfordshire’s UN Day celebrations this month (October 22).
A crowd of staff, students and local public attended the event, alongside a number of local dignitaries, including the Mayor of Luton and High Sherriff of Bedfordshire.
Keynote speakers included Dr Nazia Khanum OBE, Chair of United Nations Association-Luton Branch, and Dr David Cheesman, Director of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Topics were wide-ranging and hard-hitting, with modern-day slavery, the link between the Magna Carta and the UN Charter, and whether relations with Russia are a threat to the UN, all part of the agenda.
Opening the University’s celebrations of UN Day, Vice Chancellor Bill Rammell detailed the importance of the United Nations:
“The United Nations was created by humanity and its weaknesses are humanity’s weaknesses,” he said. “We are self-interested and we struggle to connect to, or make sense of, the scale of global suffering.
“Yet despite all this we continue to believe in the possibility of cooperation. On gender equality, on economic development, on humanitarian intervention. Without the UN these ambitious goals would not be possible.”
Following the Vice Chancellor was Dr Khanum, who addressed the need for equality to combat modern-day slavery.
“It is horrendous that, in the 21st Century, we are discussing it,” she said, citing the 176 nations where human trafficking and slavery have been identified.
“It is happening all the time in the shadows. All kinds of age groups and ethnicities are affected by it.
“In order to promote human rights internationally, we have to create equalities. It will require vigilance from a strong civil society.”
Dr Khanum’s speech set the tone for the evening, with Dr Cheesman’s talk outlining the routes of both the Magna Carta, which had its 800thanniversary this year, and the UN Charter, which itself marked its 70thyear in 2015.
“The UN provides a forum, a vision of a global community that is unprecedented; an incredible achievement,” he said.
“It symbolises, like the Magna Carta, far more than it actually is. It is far greater than the sum of its parts.
“I think the UN will still be here in 800 years’ time.”
The evening continued with a speech from Trevor Evans, Chair of UNA-Harpenden – who spoke about the possibilities of UN reform – before a Q&A brought the proceedings to a close.
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