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UN’s Ban Ki-moon endorses AIT as site of world’s first Regional Centre of Excellence on MDGs

The Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) has been designated by the United Nations as the permanent site of the world’s first Regional Centre of Excellence on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), dedicated to the promotion and achievement of the MDGs in South-East Asia through education and training.

United Nations Secretary-General H.E. Ban Ki-Moon on 25 March gave his full endorsement for the creation of the ASEAN Regional Center of Excellence on MDGs at AIT in an audio visual remark to an international stakeholders meeting titled “ECOSOC’s Promotion and Achievement of Millennium Development Goals through Education and Outreach”.

The creation of the ASEAN Regional Center of Excellence took place during the ASEAN Region Roundtable meeting on 24-25 March 2008 at the campus of AIT in Pathumthani, Thailand. The high level event was co-organized by the NGO section of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), UN-ECOSOC, and AIT.

The two-day ASEAN Region Roundtable brought together over 100 high-level civil society members, including policy experts, opinion makers, as well as representatives of the United Nations, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations and academia, all of whom deliberated on the challenges that South-East Asian countries face in achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals in time for 2015.

In his video message to the gathering, H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, welcomed the proposed Regional Centre of Excellence to be hosted at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok. He said: “The new Centre and its local and regional affiliates will provide continuity for your initiatives. They will also serve as key MDG hubs promoting development activities throughout the region.”

While praising many of South-East Asia’s achievements in terms of the MDGs, the UN-Secretary General, however, noted that progress has proved uneven between countries and across socio-economic indicators. Mr. Ban reminded his audience listening in Thailand that income disparities have grown in the region, and that too many children remain underweight. Moreover, he said the environment is under threat, despite some progress. “The Millennium Development Goals are no mere aspirations,” he said. “They are commitments – sacred vows to the poorest, most vulnerable sections of humanity. Let us keep our promises. Let us build a world we can all be proud of,” he concluded to his audience gathered at AIT.

Taking into account the achievements of four previous Regional Roundtable Meetings conducted under the auspices of the United Nations, this event aimed specifically to help implement the Millennium Development Goals in South-East Asia through education and a participatory process of stakeholder inclusion. The Roundtable formally committed to helping to implement the Millennium Declaration signed in 2000 with its 2001 MDG Roadmap to achieve the goals by 2015, recognizing ECOSOC’s theme of “Implementing the internationally-agreed Goals and Commitments, in regard to sustainable development.” Stressing the significance of this theme, the President of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, Leo Mérorès, noted that the recommendations of the Roundtable would feed into the Ministerial Declaration of the 2008 high-level segment of ECOSOC.   

ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan welcomes creation of Regional Centre of Excellence at AIT

Adding momentum to the Regional Centre of Excellence was Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary General of ASEAN, who, in a keynote address delivered to the meeting, affirmed his organization’s support for the Centre saying: “As Secretary General of ASEAN, I welcome the creation of the ASEAN Regional Centre of Excellence on MDGs at AIT in Bangkok.” The Secretary General added his hope that the Centre would work closely with ASEAN’s Jakarta-based Secretariat in the future.

A major outcome of the Roundtable was a formal Roundtable Declaration that committed the body to assist in achieving all the Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015. To do so, the formal declaration ratified recommendations for a syllabus and curriculum design of 4 training modules related to Poverty, Gender Equality, Environment and Partnership (MDGs numbers 1,3,7 and 8, respectively) to be accredited by UNITAR and utilized for capacity building and training at the AIT Centre. Roundtable participants also committed to launch local and/or national Centers of Excellence on MDGs.

The President of the Asian Institute of Technology, Prof. Said Irandoust stressed that the Regional Centre of Excellence would support and nurture partnerships amongst ASEAN government, non-governmental organizations and academic and training institutions at the national levels; and would support national and local Centers of Excellence on MDGs, based in other South-East Asian countries.

He called the Regional Centre of Excellence a ‘noble initiative’ very much attuned and aligned to AIT’s educational mission and development objectives in the region. President Irandoust added that the Centre would function as a coordination hub for the ASEAN region, and contribute to raising awareness and capacity building on MDGs. The Regional Center would also help and support institutions of civil society and NGOs willing to become Centers of Excellence on specific MDG issues. “Through this unique platform, AIT, together with its partners, pledges to actively work with decision makers, experts, policy makers and representatives from civil society towards meeting the challenges in achieving the MDGs,” President Irandoust said.

Financial sponsors of the event included AIFOMD (International Association of Trainers for the Objectives of the Millennium Development Goals), Siam Cement Group of Thailand, Bangchak Petroleum of Thailand, the TEAM Group of Companies in Thailand, UNIFEM, the multinational energy company TOTAL, World for World Organization, Canada’s CIDA, and the Southeast Asia Urban Environmental Management Applications (SEA-UEMA) Project located at AIT.

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OMDG.org
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The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)
ASEAN Secretary Address