Monmouth University’s Institute for Global Understanding (IGU) hosted a Global Visionary Lecture titled “From War to Peace and Human Dignity: The United Nations and a Transformative Global Order” on Thursday, March 31. Ramu Damodaran, former chief of the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), was awarded the University’s Global Visionary Award, followed by a lecture and Q&A session.
The event was co-sponsored by the Freed Endowed Chair in Social Sciences, held by Rekha Datta, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science, and featured opening remarks from President Patrick Leahy, Ed.D., and a brief introduction from Saliba Sarsar, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science.
“One of the pillars of the IGU’s mission is to promote relations with the UN to ensure that our programming is coordinating with the UN’s activities to give faculty and students an opportunity to engage with the UN,” explained Randall Abate, J.D., director of the IGU and Rechnitz Family Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy. Abate cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as an obstacle in maintaining those relationships but noted the significance of Damodaran’s presentation as the University maintains its connection to the UN.
“The IGU seeks to serve as a clearinghouse of events and activities for the Monmouth community on topics related to global affairs and cross-cultural understanding. We are particularly interested in serving as a platform to help ‘internationalize’ Monmouth students’ education to help them become true global citizens,” added Abate, who encourages students to attend IGU events to broaden their perspectives on their education at Monmouth and their eventual career.
Shabnam Baidariwal, an Adjunct in the Department of Political Science and Sociology, required students in her PS-102 International Relations course to attend the event. “The United Nations is the cornerstone of international law,” she explained, citing the importance of learning about the UN and attending IGU events that offer unique opportunities to connect with the UN.
“I am so pleased to support the efforts of the IGU here at Monmouth,” said Leahy, who mentioned his desire to utilize his role as President to maintain relationships with the UN . “Institutes like the IGU are as important as ever on college campuses all over the world. One only needs to look at the events in Ukraine to realize that we must continue to push for greater cross-cultural understanding when it comes to geopolitical matters.”
In his introduction, Sarsar described Damodaran’s contributions to the Monmouth University community and noted his aid in leading the UNAI to help colleges and universities promote the UN’s core principles, including world peace, human rights, and sustainable and equitable development.
Abate then presented Damodaran with the Global Visionary Award, citing “his lifetime of dedication to the cause of world peace and development through education and prioritizing global understanding.”
Following his acceptance of the award, Damodaran spoke about the significance of space, both in literal and figurative terms, within both the University and the United Nations, offering his insight about the different contexts of space and the optimal use of it. He described the idea of space as being “symbolized by architecture, by creation, but also the many spaces of human endangerment that we have, whether as a University, whether as a student, whether as a government, whether as the United Nations.”
Damodaran posed various questions about space and how it can be used in its different forms, some of which include space for the voiceless, space for engagement to work toward a common good, space for optimism in light of shortcomings or wrong decisions, and space for the unexpected. Furthermore, Damodaran emphasized the adaptability of space, noting that it can have different uses than what it was originally intended for. This is especially relevant when it comes to space for the unforeseen, which may require space to be used differently than had originally been planned.
Damodaran’s examples of space included work from University students and faculty, several UN initiatives, climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and even the literal space of the Julian Abele room that the event was hosted in in the Great Hall.
He also noted what he considers to be the most important space, which is the space within one’s heart. “That is a space that you return to time and time again,” explained Damodaran. “I have seen this on the face of delegates in the UN, when they’re about to press a button, feeling that that is how their government would want them to vote, a voice comes from within that space in their heart saying ‘maybe you can take a risk this time and do what you think is right.’”
“And so today, we come to the final space of all. That space of confluence of the tomorrow and the today, where we no longer need to give up our tomorrow’s for someone’s today, or our today’s for someone’s tomorrow’s. Because together, we can preserve the right to today and the right to the future generations, the future expectations, and the future possibilities of tomorrow,” concluded Damodaran.
According to Abate, the IGU plans to re-establish its UNAI Lecture Series in the 2022-2023 academic year and will feature distinguished speakers from the UN. “The IGU also has student representatives who can attend UN briefings at UN Headquarters in New York and help bring relevant messages from those briefings to campus life at Monmouth,” added Abate.