U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to speak at Global Colloquium of University Presidents at Penn

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will open the fifth annual meeting of the Global Colloquium of University Presidents at Penn on Monday, April 4, with a public address on empowering women.

The Colloquium, a select group of 29 university presidents from around the world convened annually to discuss a topic of immediate concern to the secretary-general, will address the challenge of “Empowering Women to Change the World: What the UN and Universities Can Do” from April 4 to 5 at Penn.



UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Michelle Bachelet

United Nations

Top: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Bottom: Michelle Bachelet, executive director of UN Women

In addition to the secretary-general, Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile, under-secretary-general of the United Nations and executive director of UN Women, and Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Obama and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, will participate in the Colloquium.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has prioritized empowerment of women and gender equity. “Only through women’s full and equal participation in all areas of public and private life can we hope to achieve the sustainable, peaceful and just society promised in the United Nations Charter,” he said on International Women’s Day in March. “Universities can help in this effort by nurturing their own role models and enabling women’s empowerment through all their research, outreach and appointments.”

Penn President Amy Gutmann helped found the Colloquium in 2004, along with fellow university presidents from Columbia, NYU, Princeton and Yale, in response to the secretary-general’s request for greater involvement of the global academic community in exploring international public policy concerns.

“The world will realize its full potential only when we address gender inequality and empower women. Universities have an important role to play in empowering women through education, research, and community service, and in serving as institutional exemplars of gender equality, diversity, and inclusive participation in leadership. We also look forward to exploring the possibilities of collaborating with the mission of UN Women,” Gutmann says.

The United Nations General Assembly created UN Women in 2010 to pull together the U.N.’s many activities in support of women and girls. The secretary-general named Bachelet under-secretary-general of the U.N. and the first executive director of the newly created entity in September 2010.  

Jarrett says President Obama is committed to empowering the world’s women in a wide variety of areas. “I’m looking forward to speaking with the Global Colloquium about his commitment, sharing ideas, and working together to realize our common dream of a world where all things are possible for all women,” she says.

As university host of this year’s Colloquium, Gutmann is joined by academic partners Deborah A. Driscoll, chair of Penn’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Afaf Meleis, the Margaret Bond Simon Dean of Nursing at the Penn School of Nursing. The University will welcome the 29 presidents and their faculty partners from research universities in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin and South America, as well as Europe and North America. A full list of participants is available at www.upenn.edu/president/global_colloquium/participating-universities.

During the Colloquium, the presidents will discuss the best ways for universities to address the empowerment of women and gender equity, and identify additional steps universities can take in their home countries to further these goals. The faculty experts on women’s issues and international affairs will consider what more the U.N. can do to advance women and girls around the world. Key areas of discussion will include educational access and equity, creating paths and pipelines to leadership roles for women, empirical research on the myriad social and cultural factors that perpetuate women’s inequality, and access to health care for women and girls.

Previous Colloquia have addressed such important topics as academic freedom, international migration, innovative sources of funding global goods, the social benefits of the research university in the 21st century, sustainability and global climate change, and the role of science in meeting global challenges. A full list is available: www.upenn.edu/president/global_colloquium/previous.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s address is open to the public and will be held at 5 p.m. in Irvine Auditorium, 3401 Spruce St. No tickets are required but attendees are asked to RSVP to opevents@pobox.upenn.edu.

All other Colloquium sessions are closed, but participants will issue a report on the proceedings later this year.

More information on the Colloquium is available at www.upenn.edu/president/global_colloquium/home.

Originally published on March 31, 2011