Skip to main content

Why representatives from 34 UNESCO centres from around the world came to Malaysia

© Форпост Северо-Запад / Мария Солдатченко

A delegation from the Empress Catherine II St. Petersburg Mining University took part in the International Symposium of UNESCO Centres held in Kuala Lumpur. This platform united specialists from 23 different countries of the world, whose activities are related to solving tasks that contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Forpost decided to find out what initiatives were voiced by Russians at the forum and how delegates from other countries reacted to them.

As you know, the International Centre of Competence in Mining Engineering Education under the auspices of UNESCO was established on the basis of Russia's first technical university back in 2018. Its mission was to improve the quality of engineering education, unify professional standards, and introduce advanced scientific developments into production. Moreover, not only in Russia, but also globally.

Obviously, the successes achieved in this area have a direct impact on improving the level of labour safety, reducing the cost of mineral extraction and, therefore, end-use goods, and reducing the anthropogenic load on the environment. In other words, they represent a clear and effective mechanism for achieving the most important UN goals, such as the eradication of poverty and hunger and universal access to affordable energy.

© Академия наук Малайзии

Looking ahead, it should be said that St. Petersburg residents at the symposium operated not only with plans, which, as always, are huge, but also with concrete, already achieved results, which caused a wide response among their foreign colleagues. The latter, by the way, included representatives of completely different specialties, often seemingly unrelated to each other. That is why, as the organizers explained, it was extremely important to bring them all together for personal acquaintance. Clear coordination and mutual understanding between UNESCO centers located in different regions of the world is the most important element of successful work.

For example, Thailand was represented by Matipon Tangmatitam, Head of the Astronomy Center. In his presentation, he emphasized that no one in his country had ever seriously studied the Universe before, and that therefore the solution to the tasks at hand "requires the introduction of advanced space and ground-based technologies, as well as the construction of new infrastructure".

© Академия наук Малайзии

"The efforts made in this direction will also stimulate the development of other technology-intensive sectors of Thailand's economy. This means that our activities have a strong positive correlation with sustainable development goals," emphasized Matipon Tangmatitam.

Maciej Zalewski, Director of the European Regional Center for Ecohydrology, spoke at the symposium on behalf of Poland. He stated that the UNESCO leadership, unlike many other international organizations, "did very right" by refusing to discriminate on the basis of nationality.

© Академия наук Малайзии

"Our event is attended, among others, by experts from Russia, and this is great, because communication and interaction are very important, and if the dialog between scientists stops now, everything will stop," says Maciej Zalewski.

One of the most popular topics of the forum was the implementation of the Open Science initiative, aimed at increasing the accessibility of scientific research results and, as a consequence, their value for different segments of society. Representatives of one of UNESCO's Asian centers commented on this concept in a very non-trivial way during an informal exchange of views. They emphasized that in the course of many years of studying glaciers, they have recorded "the absence or extremely insignificant influence on their condition of the factors of so-called anthropogenic climate change". But they cannot reflect these actual, objective results in their reports for fear of losing the funding allocated for their work.

Горы, идет снег, Роза-Хутор.
© Форпост Северо-Запад

"Unfortunately, many decisions that affect the lives and well-being of millions of people, cost billions of dollars and determine the development prospects of many countries and peoples are often based on political expediency rather than on sound and evidence-based science. We believe that science should contribute to the needs and aspirations of mankind - health, safe environment, well-being, opportunities for development, and not serve as a screen for infringement of the rights and freedoms of citizens, social groups or entire nations", - commented Sergei Ivanets, Director of Science of the Competence Center under the auspices of UNESCO St. Petersburg Mining University.

Indeed, the intensification of the notorious energy transition and the urgent rejection of fossil fuels, which have already led to a decline in Germany's GDP and a drop in living standards for most Europeans, were justified precisely by the need to prevent global warming caused by human activity. But if this is a bluff invented solely for the sake of the Russophobic agenda, why should the inhabitants of the African continent, who are generally not rich, pay triple the price for electricity when it could be much cheaper? This is also one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, no less important than reducing the load on ecosystems.

© Академия наук Малайзии

"Our comment was echoed by UNESCO's Assistant Director-General Lydia Brito, who chaired the forum. During several of her interventions, she confirmed that, indeed, very often scientific evidence is not taken into account or recognized when decision-makers make important decisions. At the same time, as Ms. Brito stressed, science should demonstrate the most open and decentralized approach to any research project," stressed Sergey Ivanets.

The leitmotif of the symposium, because a significant number of delegates represented Africa, was the theme of its development. Thus, Francis Davis from Ghana, Director General of the International Center for Innovation, Production, Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship under the auspices of UNESCO, addressing his colleagues, said the following:

"You must become part of my economy"!

© Форпост Северо-Запад / Павел Долганов

In this way, he demonstrated to the audience that talk of support for the Sunny Continent remains mostly just talk. Western investments go primarily to projects controlled by American or European transnational corporations, while the local population continues to need the basic benefits of civilization. For example, more than half a billion people living south of the Sahara have no access to electricity, and tens of millions of children there do not attend school, not even primary school.

According to the Head of the Regional Center for Integrated Water Resources Management Yaya Omogbemi Omoloju from Nigeria, only the emergence of a significant number of competent personnel in African states will change the situation. First of all, mining engineers and oilmen. Only then will national governments be able to channel the main revenues from subsoil use into federal budgets, while so far they go mainly abroad, to the countries where the headquarters of major mining and oil and gas companies are located.

© Академия наук Малайзии

"It is obvious that Africa expects practical assistance from such a reputable international structure as UNESCO in solving its urgent and acute problems, including in the field of subsoil use. I would like to know about concrete results of the centers' activities that have benefited the poorest countries, not only about the number of highly rated articles published by their scientists," Yaya Omogbemi addressed the audience.

Paul Omaji, representative of the Russian delegation and President of the consortium of universities "Subsoil of Africa", which was organized on the initiative of St. Petersburg Mining University, said that "work for results" is the main principle of the commonwealth of universities of the continent, which he heads. The organization is very young, not even six months old, but its main goal is to restore the sovereignty of states over their raw material resources.

© Академия наук Малайзии

"Africa, which gives a lot to the developed countries but receives very little in return, needs solutions to change the situation. Russia is providing such solutions. They are based on changes in legislation related to increasing the role of the state in regulating subsoil use, improving the quality of engineering education, introducing modern technologies to increase the profitability of production, searching for new deposits and assessing their potential. Members of our union have already started to benefit in these areas, but of course we are only at the beginning of the journey," said Paul Omaji, after which he asked the UNESCO Secretariat to support the project.

This proposal was met with great applause both from the participants of the symposium from Africa and from UNESCO Deputy Director General Lydia Brito. She thanked the St. Petersburgers for their "practical approach" and expressed confidence that "mining is a very important and promising area" that will improve the quality of life on the mainland.

She also expressed her support for the initiatives voiced by the Russians during her personal meeting with our delegation. During the meeting, Evgeny Lyubin, Vice-Rector for International Activities at the Mining University, spoke, in particular, about the pilot project to improve the model of higher education, which is currently being implemented at the university.

© Академия наук Малайзии

"One of the challenges faced by the International Center of Competence in Mining Education under the auspices of UNESCO from the very beginning of its existence was to increase the quality of engineering education. Today we have already introduced a new approach to training in our curricula. It involves abandoning two levels - bachelor's and master's degrees - in favor of a unified system of higher education, creating a so-called "core", where students study the same fundamental disciplines for all specialties in the first two years, and increasing the period of industrial practice. In the near future, our experience will be scaled to other Russian higher education institutions. Of course, we are ready to share it with foreign partners as well," said Evgeny Lyubin.

Lidia Brito positively assessed the process of transformation of educational programs that took place at the Mining University. The UNESCO Deputy Director General said that when she was the Minister of Education of Mozambique, the idea of transition to a two-tier system of training engineers in her country was also very popular. However, she herself and a group of like-minded people strongly opposed its implementation in practice. As a result, specialists rather than bachelors are now graduating from local universities, which keeps the quality of their education at a decent level.

© Академия наук Малайзии

Ms. Brito mentioned cooperation in the field of land reclamation as one of the promising joint projects between UNESCO and the Mining University. She stressed that many companies do not take into account in their development programs the need to restore ecosystems disturbed during subsoil use. And here the experience of St. Petersburg residents can also become fundamental. One of the most interesting solutions developed by the scientists of the oldest technical university in Russia, she called the program of liquidation of the Korkinsky open-pit mine in the Chelyabinsk region by means of backfill material representing the tailings of the Tominsky GOK.

In addition, Lidia Brito considered it a "wonderful idea" to propose that the next symposium of UNESCO centers be held in the city on the Neva River, at the Mining University. Given the St. Petersburg university's vast experience in hosting major international forums and the fact that the historic part of the northern capital was once the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in our country, this plan, in her opinion, "is quite realistic, although it requires additional work.

© Форпост Северо-Запад / Евгений Любин