2020/06/24 Dresden, Germany
By Ying Liu
On 8 June 2020, the seventh annual session of the Advisory Committee (AC) took place in a modified virtual form, where members participated from different locations across the world. While the traditional on-site two-day agenda had been abridged to a half-day, the takeaways were equally informative and significant for the future development of UNU-FLORES.
Dr David Malone (UNU Rector and Under-Secretary-General of the UN) opened the session by addressing all UNU-FLORES staff and AC members. The Rector first praised the achievement of the online Dresden Nexus Conference 2020 (eDNC2020); as one of the keynote speakers for the event, he described eDNC2020 as “dynamic”. Dr Malone also commented that, with an influx of motivated new staff members, the second generation of UNU-FLORES has steadily taken shape and built upon the foundation-laying work of the previous UNU-FLORES team, with the Institute developing in a promising and visible direction – a noticeable example of which is the establishment of the UNU Water Network with UNU-FLORES taking the role of the founding chair.
Following the Rector’s message, Prof. Edeltraud Guenther (Director of UNU-FLORES) briefly reported the development that UNU-FLORES has undertaken during her leadership – some of which includes the introduction of regular meetings and workshops, and connecting to a wide variety of donors for research projects. Prof. Guenther highlighted the Transition in Mining initiative, which was in its very early stages during the previous AC session, a good indication of the close collaboration between UNU-FLORES and the Saxon government; the Rector and AC members also positively acknowledged these developments. The work of the Implementation Plan was set as an institutional focus moving forwards. Some potential developments related to funding, research programmes, and global cooperation were also presented to all participants. The Director displayed optimism towards the future accomplishment of UNU-FLORES, with many projects both underway and under development.
Prof. Guenther also referred to the eDNC2020, which was widely regarded as valuable experience for UNU-FLORES and as a great organisational achievement for such a small institute in the face of a global pandemic.
In response to the Director’s report, Prof. Joseph Alcamo (USA/University of Sussex, UK) expressed his appreciation for UNU-FLORES’s ongoing projects – particularly those that explicitly connect with the agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He further suggested that integrating multiple SDGs into research and projects.
The session was then divided into three individual breakout rooms to specifically focus on the topics: Partnership, Benchmarks and Indicators, and the Floating Office Concept. After a 40-minute discussion, a short summary was presented to the full group afterwards by each lead discussant.
Following these discussions and summaries, the AC members addressed the session with their comments and suggestions. In regard to Partnerships, Dr Malone emphasised the importance of the Institute’s push for the Nexus Approach, which embraces more possibility of seeking for partnerships in diversified areas of the natural and social sciences, with a balance between national and international backgrounds. In the segment of Benchmarks and Indicators, the way to measure individual performance that relates to the institutional Implementation Plan was underlined. In terms of the Floating Office Concept, the idea of optimising the virtual workplace was taken into consideration with more staff getting accustomed to home-based work environment due to COVID-19.
In order to ensure the alignment of the vision and relationship of both the donors and the Institute, the representatives of the UNU-FLORES donors were invited to a separate segment of the AC meeting. The Chair of the AC, Prof. Wim van Vierssen (Netherlands) opened by thanking the donors for their continued support of the Institute. Questions posed and discussed during this meeting included future challenges from donors’ perspectives and UNU-FLORES’s contribution to the German research landscape. The growing visibility of UNU-FLORES in the international community satisfied donors, and multilateral cooperation was planned to expand to the Global South. Diversification is strongly encouraged and supported by the Rector.
The seventh annual Advisory Committee meeting of UNU-FLORES proved to be a very positive one, with highly valuable suggestions and decisions made. With the vital support and guidance of the UNU Rector, the AC members and the donors, UNU-FLORES can continue moving meaningfully forward in the right direction.
The Advisory Committee is an organ providing advice and guidance to the Director of UNU-FLORES, in accordance with the general principles, policies, and criteria formulated by the Council of the United Nations University to govern the activities of the University. Each Advisory Committee member, appointed by the Rector in consultation with the Chairman of the Council of the University, serves in their individual capacity and has been selected in virtue of their experience, qualifications, and recognised competence in the disciplines and practices related to the purposes of UNU-FLORES. The Rector of the University and the Director of UNU-FLORES are ex-officio members of the Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee elected Prof. Rattan Lal as Chairman and meets in regular session at least once a year, as convened by the Director.
For more information about the AC members, please visit the Advisory Committee page.