president of UN general assembly with anthony seldon

President of UN General Assembly officially opens new United Nations Studies Centre at the University Of Buckingham

9 August 2019

The University of Buckingham played host to one of the most influential women in global diplomacy on 6th August, when the President of the UN General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, visited the university to officially open its new Centre for United Nations Studies.

The Centre is the first of its kind in Europe, conducting research into the UN with the intention of helping to improve its effectiveness, to educate students on the role of similar international organisations, and to positively contribute to other universities and research centres across the world.

At the opening, the President presented an inaugural speech on; ‘Multilateralism in a fast-changing World’. She unveiled a plaque to mark the official opening of the Centre and participated in a Q&A session with students, guests and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, Sir Anthony Seldon.

Ms. Espinosa was elected to serve as the President of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly on 5th June 2018. She is the first woman from Latin America to hold this position and only the fourth woman to do so. With over 20 years of experience in peace and security, human rights, sustainable development and environmental issues, she has previously served in Ecuador as Minister of Foreign Affairs (twice), Minister of National Defence, and Coordinating Minister of Natural and Cultural Heritage; and was Ecuador’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York and in Geneva.

Speaking of her visit the President commented: “I am honoured to speak at the official opening of the University of Buckingham’s Centre for UN Studies – the first of its kind in the UK. Academia has a strong role to play in providing evidence to underpin policy-making and ensuring the UN stays ahead of the curve on future trends, challenges and opportunities. The UN must also do more to engage young people in its work; this is essential if the Organisation is to become more relevant to people’s lives. This new Centre will support both these aims.”

The University of Buckingham Centre for United Nations was established by Mark Seddon, former speechwriter to the UN Secretary-General and former UN and Diplomatic Correspondent for Al Jazeera English TV, alongside Economics Lecturer Dr. Paul Graham from the University of Buckingham.

Mark Seddon comments: “It is our intention that the new Centre for UN Studies will help inform and shape the debate about the United Nations at a time when multilateralism is under threat and the world faces huge challenges that can be best solved by working together.

“We also hope that the MA in United Nations and Diplomatic Studies can inform a new generation of students in a practical way, some of whom we hope may go on to work for the United Nations and its agencies. The University of Buckingham, with its strong international outlook and student body is the ideal place for these new initiatives.”

In 2020, the Centre will hold its first conference focussing on one of its thematic research areas and launch a series of policy papers. It is currently focussing on research on; ‘A Marshall Plan for Africa’, ‘Fintech and Inclusive Development’ and ‘Bosnia-Herzegovina, 25 years on from the Dayton Accords’.

The first cohort of students were accepted onto the MA in United Nations and Diplomatic Studies in September 2018. The degree combines high-level analysis with practical professional training.

MA United Nations and Diplomatic Studies student, Richard Buckley, said: “The United Nations and Diplomatic Studies course has allowed me to relate my prior work experience with international organisations in Sudan and Myanmar to the global context of international relations.

We have been fortunate to meet first-hand with speakers in senior roles at the UN, working on some of the most challenging and intractable issues facing the world today. My course-mates come from around the globe and each individual brings a fresh perspective to the programme, which ensures lively discussion in seminars. I would highly recommend the course to anyone interested in tackling the big questions of global governance.”

Sir Anthony Seldon remarked: “The UN is more important to Britain than at any point since the end of the cold war. Britain can compensate for its loss of influence as a bridgehead into the EU by using its status as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

“The UN has never had a more vital role than it does right now because it alone can solve the cross-national challenge we face of global warming, AI and tech companies out of control, migration and laws.

“The visit is historically significant. The fact that the President is coming in the anniversary of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima is an added poignancy to the opening.”

Find out more about the University of Buckingham Centre for United Nation Studies.