Unesco fellowship plan - Top-tier institute set to reach out to 44 countries

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By BASANT KUMAR MOHANTY
  • Published 11.11.13
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New Delhi, Nov. 10: India’s only top-tier Unesco institute plans to reach out to 44 countries in the conflict-ridden Asia-Pacific region with research fellowships as it marks its first anniversary on Monday.

Kabir Shaikh, director of the Delhi-based Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development, said the fellowship would be launched early next year for research on issues such as internal conflicts, peace education, human security, nurturing the natural environment and combating climate change.

This is the first top-tier Unesco institute in the Asia-Pacific region and has been established as the focal point for all 44 countries in the region. It is also the only Unesco institute to be named after an individual — Mahatma Gandhi — in homage to his ideas of non-violence and sustainable living.

The institute’s launch was announced last year by President Pranab Mukherjee and Unesco director-general Irina Bokova on November 11, the National Education Day.

Shaikh said the institute had been established in the Asia-Pacific as it was home to a population of over 4.2 billion people.

“This is nearly 60 per cent of the world’s population. With a quarter of the earth’s landmass, this region witnesses half the world’s natural disasters. Countries in this region have also suffered from a large number of armed conflicts,” he said.

At the moment, the institute works out of rented premises on Feroz Shah Road. Its operations are at a very nascent stage, with the institute having just a director and a few official staff.

“Our mandate is to commission high-quality research, maintain networks and databases, identify and support capacity-building needs, provide considered authoritative advice to governments and educational institutions, enhance co-operation and award fellowships to select researchers through our fellowship programme,” the director said.

Each fellowship, to be awarded for a year, would be worth $5,000 to $10,000 (Rs 3.12 lakh to Rs 6.24 lakh). At the end of the year, the fellow would have to produce a paper. About 10 fellowships will be awarded a year to doctoral and postdoctoral researchers from the 44 countries.

Shaikh said Unesco’s long history of work showed that peace and sustainable development were interlinked goals, each encompassing far more than was commonly supposed. Peace is more than just ending physical violence, he said.

“It’s about the guarantee of human security from the threats of violence, war and strife, and from the dangers of structural injustice, hunger, poverty and ill-dignified living,” Shaikh said.

“Similarly, sustainable development isn’t merely about nurturing our natural environment or combating climate change. Sustainability must inform development at all levels, in the management of all resources, and promote equity and progress in a way that is not wasteful, that is cognizant of ecological balance, and secures the future of coming generations.”