President of United Nations General Assembly opens new centre for UN studies at the University of Buckingham

Opening of the Centre for United Nations Studies at the University of Buckingham - pictured is the president of the UN General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa with Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the university
Opening of the Centre for United Nations Studies at the University of Buckingham - pictured is the president of the UN General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa with Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the university

The president of the United Nations General Assembly officially opened a new building and hosted a talk at the University of Buckingham today (Tuesday).

Maria Fernanda Espinosa, who holds one of the most influential positions in world politics, visited the university this morning to officially open its new centre for United Nations Studies.

The opening of the Centre for United Nations Studies at the University of Buckingham - psychology student Malebogo introduces the president

The opening of the Centre for United Nations Studies at the University of Buckingham - psychology student Malebogo introduces the president

The centre is described as 'the first of its kind in Europe' and will conduct research into the United Nations with the intention of helping to improve its effectiveness.

The university say the facility will be used to educate students on the role of similar international organisations, and to positively contribute to other universities and research centres across the world.

During this morning's event Ms Espinosa presented a speech to the assembled guests entitled ‘what is profit if we are destroying the planet?' during which she argued the need to rethink 'the very aspect of profit.'

Ms Espinosa also unveiled a plaque to mark the centre's official opening before participating in a question and answer session with guests and the university's vice-chancellor Sir Anthony Seldon.

Opening of the Centre for United Nations Studies at the University of Buckingham - pictured is the president of the UN General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa

Opening of the Centre for United Nations Studies at the University of Buckingham - pictured is the president of the UN General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa

Ms Espinosa, an Ecuadorian national, is the first woman from Latin America to hold this position and only the fourth woman ever to hold office in the role.

She has more than 20 years of experience in peace and security, human rights, sustainable development and environmental issues and has previously served in Ecuador as minister of foreign affairs (twice), minister of national defence, and co-ordinating minister of natural and cultural heritage as well as being Ecuador’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York and in Geneva.

Speaking about her visit Ms Espinosa said: “I am honoured to speak at the official opening of the University of Buckingham’s centre for UN studies - the first of its kind in the UK.

"Academia has a strong role to play in providing evidence to underpin policy-making and ensuring the UN stays ahead of the curve on future trends, challenges and opportunities.

The opening of the Centre for United Nations Studies at the University of Buckingham - pictured is the president of the UN General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa with Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the university

The opening of the Centre for United Nations Studies at the University of Buckingham - pictured is the president of the UN General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa with Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the university

"The UN must also do more to engage young people in its work; this is essential if the organisation is to become more relevant to people’s lives.

"The new centre for UN studies will support both these aims.”

The university's centre for United Nations was established by Mark Seddon, former speechwriter to the UN secretary-general and former UN and diplomatic correspondent for Al Jazeera English TV, alongside economics lecturer Dr Paul Graham from the University of Buckingham.

In 2020, the centre will hold its first conference focusing on one of its thematic research areas and launch a series of policy papers.

Buckingham mayor Mark Cole and his wife meet Maria Fernanda Espinosa during the opening of the Centre for United Nations Studies at the University of Buckingham

Buckingham mayor Mark Cole and his wife meet Maria Fernanda Espinosa during the opening of the Centre for United Nations Studies at the University of Buckingham

It is currently focusing its research on; ‘A marshall plan for Africa’, ‘Fintech and inclusive development’ and ‘Bosnia-Herzegovina, 25 years on from the Dayton Accords’.

The first cohort of students were accepted on to the MA in United Nations and Diplomatic Studies in September last year - a qualification that claims to combine high-level analysis with practical professional training.

MA United Nations and Diplomatic Studies student, Richard Buckley, said: “The United Nations and Diplomatic Studies course has allowed me to relate my prior work experience with international organisations in Sudan and Myanmar to the global context of international relations.

"We have been fortunate to meet first-hand with speakers in senior roles at the UN, working on some of the most challenging and intractable issues facing the world today.

"My course-mates come from around the globe and each individual brings a fresh perspective to the programme, which ensures lively discussion in seminars.

"I would highly recommend the course to anyone interested in tackling the big questions of global governance.”

Opening of the Centre for United Nations Studies at the University of Buckingham - pictured is the president of the UN General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa with Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the university

Opening of the Centre for United Nations Studies at the University of Buckingham - pictured is the president of the UN General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa with Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the university

The university's vice-chancellor Sir Anthony Seldon added: “We are delighted to welcome the president of the United Nations General Assembly to the University of Buckingham.

"The UN needs partners to help to provide answers to issues such as climate change, intense conflict, migration and global sustainable development, as well as dedicated recruits to serve it from across the world.

"It's partners include a broad group of great seats of learning, and we are honoured to be amongst them.

"With a student body of more than 90 different nationalities, the University of Buckingham has a global outlook built into our DNA, and I believe we can help to develop new ways of thinking and become the leading centre for learning, research and reflection on the UN.”

To find out more about the centre visit www.buckingham.ac.uk/economics-international/the-centre-for-united-nations-studies
Photos by Derek Pelling.