GLOBAL: Leadership education gets boost through UN

As the United Nations attempts to tap the wealth of knowledge and expertise available in universities to solve major global problems, one of the key areas of collaboration will be in capacity building in the developing world.

The UN Academic Impact (UNAI), with around 670 member universities around the world, groups universities into 10 'hubs'. Each hub tackles a major global issue such as poverty, human rights, conflict and sustainable development. Capacity building is one of them.

"Capacity building is one of the most important of the UNAI hubs," said Kim Young-Gil, President of South Korea's Handong Global University in Pohang, the UNAI hub for developing university systems.

"The global hub on capacity building is a clearing house between the UN and universities to exchange ideas and findings," Kim told University World News.

Leadership and entrepreneurship education in developing countries is different from elsewhere in the world, according to Kim. "Developing countries don't need a Harvard MBA, they need a wider view. They have to have a much broader perspective."

Often global problems are interdisciplinary and interconnected.

Kim believes South Korea is in a unique situation, with its experience of moving very rapidly from being a developing to a developed country.

"Korea succeeded in transforming itself from a major aid recipient to a donor country within a single generation.

"The establishment and development of higher education and research institutions played key roles in the recent economic development, and Korea owed much of it to international organisations," he told the UNAI forum held in Seoul from 9-12 August, the first time all 10 hubs were meeting since the Academic Impact's inception last year.

"Korea's rapid economic development would not have been, had it not been for the help of the international community."

Later he told University World News: "Finance and financial aid is not a guarantee of success. Korea is in an ideal position, it understands this better than other nations.

"The secret of the Korean success lies, in a large measure, in its human development policies that can be a helpful guide to other developing nations.

"We have experience in know-how and education. One of the most efficient ways for Korea to repay its debt [to the international community] is for Korea to help developing countries in education."

Often, learning from countries that are in similar stages of development or just a stage or two ahead can be useful, he believes.

"The global problems and challenges we are facing now are energies, climate changes, food and water. We need to learn to create carbon-free, endless green energy for environmental sustainability. In order to solve global problems, we have to cultivate a global mindset through global education on sustainable development for future leaders," Kim argued.

"There are three main components for capacity building - entrepreneurship, which is creating something from nothing through technology; business and [rule of] law; and global leadership and global partnership," said Kim, who believes all three are essential to develop future leaders who can address world problems.

Handong Global University had already started global entrepreneurship training, initiated by UNESCO in April 2007 as part of its University Twinning and Networking (UNITWIN) programme.

And the network it built helped provide advice and expertise to other Asian countries, especially the least developed nations in the region. In particular the network's aim is to help universities learn through their links with other universities around the world.

It is still early days with UNAI, said Kim, a former NASA materials scientist. It is difficult to predict how it will evolve. "But UNAI provides a wider purpose, a much broader field" for activities already started.

Do we know with some confidence that entrepreneurship can be successfully taught in a university setting?

Ron Krate,
PhD, Founding Head,
International Professors Project