Right Honourable Helen Clark, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) delivers opening address.
Spiritual leader Amma delivers keynote address at UN conference on technology for sustainable development.
July 8, 2015 – New York
Spiritual leader and humanitarian Sri Mata Amritanandamayi, serving in her role as Chancellor of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, addressed researchers representing 93 leading international universities today at a conference co-hosted by Amrita and the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), attended by more than 700 delegates.
“Amma,” as she is commonly known, urged the scientific community to approach their research with a balance of awareness and compassion, stressing the importance of keeping the upliftment of the poor and suffering in mind when they undertake technological research.
The conference featured presentations of cutting-edge research by experts from the world’s top academic institutions–Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge, EPFL, Monash, Twente, the National University of Singapore and Amrita–on specific areas of leading technology and innovation, including nanoscience and molecular medicine, biotechnology, wireless networking and haptics.
In her opening address, Helen Clark said, “Sustainable development is at the very heart of the new global development agenda being negotiated at the United Nations this year. … These challenges call for big partnerships to tackle them head-on. The communities of endeavor represented here today must be part of these partnerships.”
Amma’s keynote focused on the importance of reducing the divide between science and spirituality, saying that it has been detrimental to society’s sustainable growth. “These two main branches of knowledge that should have gone hand in hand were divided, and practitioners were either labeled as modern scientists or representatives of religious faiths. … Today, universities and their researchers are ranked mainly based on the amount of funding they receive, the number of papers they publish and their intellectual caliber, but along with this, we should take into consideration how much we have been able to use their research to serve the lowest and most vulnerable strata of society.”
The UNAI then inaugurated an online portal created by Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham to foster further discussion and collaboration among researchers worldwide on technology for global sustainable development.
Ramu Damodaran, Chief, UNAI, shared UNAI’s deep appreciation of the partnership with Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and, in particular, Amrita’s construction of the portal, which he said would facilitate collaboration between scholars and institutions in their common support to the United Nations’ cause. “Amma has spoken of the distinction between ‘education for living’ and ‘education for life.’ It is our hope that, working together, the global academic community and the United Nations, can fuse these concepts into a single dynamic source of passion and creative energy.”
Led by Mr. Damodaran, the delegates from 93 academic institutions then signed a group statement confirming their positive intention to co-operate on all aspects of information and research data sharing for humanitarian benefit around the world in line with the UN’s proposed Sustainable Development Goals.
Concurrent with the statement’s ambition, each of the presentation panels also announced pledges of specific collaborative efforts between their respective institutions:
Dr. Maneesha V. Ramesh, Director of the Amrita Centre for Wireless Networks & Applications, and Dr. Maarten van Steen, Scientific Director of CTIT, University of Twente, pledged to complete and have running the first landslide early warning and monitoring system in the heights of the Himalayas.
Dr. Bipin Nair, Professor and Dean of Biotechnology, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, and Dr. Tai-Ping Fan, Head, Angiogenesis & Chinese Medicine Laboratory, Cambridge, pledged to develop evaluate the efficacy and safety of plant-derived botanical drugs or plant-inspired pharmaceuticals for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, within three years.
Dr. Shanti Nair, Dean of Research and Director of Nanoscience and Molecular Medicine, pledged with Prof. Seeram Ramakrishna, Director, Centre for Nanofibres and Nanotechnology, National University of Singapore, and Prof. Claude C.A. Bernard, Deputy Director, Monash Immunology and Stem-Cell Laboratories, pledged to create a Nanotechnology Exchange Platform that can be used to access products, IP and knowledge.
Prof. Bhavani, Director of Amrita’s AMMACHI Labs, and Prof. J. Kenneth Salisbury, Jr., Research Professor, Department of Computer Science and Surgery, Stanford, pledged to create a low-cost, HMD, and tablet-based training simulation course that will enable anyone, especially women, to acquire Crane-operation skills. Prof. Bhavani also pledged with Dr. Silvia Hostetller, UNESCO Chair in Technologies for Development, EPFL, pledged further collaboration with their work in the rural villages of India as a part of Amrita’s Live-in-Labs.
The United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) is a global initiative that aligns institutions of higher education with the united nations in furthering the realization of the purposes and mandate of the un through activities and research in a shared culture of intellectual social responsibility.