The United Nations turns 75 this year and to spur global discussions on the issues facing humanity, UN Secretary His Excellency General Antonio Guterres called out to stakeholders worldwide to participate in UN75 dialogues. During His Excellency’s visit to Pakistan and NUST in February 2020, he specifically requested NUST to participate in UN75 debates. These dialogues are intended to crowd-source solutions to the current and impending problems. High-impact solutions will be curated and presented at a special event at the UN Headquarters in New York, USA, this Fall. In response to the call by the UNSG, the National University of Sciences & Technology (NUST) hosted online the first-ever UN75 dialogue on “Inequalities: Bridging the Divide.” It was live streamed from the university’s main campus here on Thursday.
Prominent dialogue participants included Ms Kanwal Shauzab, Parliamentary Secretary Planning & Development; Ms Romina Khurshid Alam, MNA and Member Parliamentary Committee on SDGs; Mr Saleem Ranjha, Additional Secretary Ministry of Education; and Ms Nighat Dad, Founder Digital Rights Pakistan. Each of the participants shed light on various forms of inequalities, their effects on society, and how to take measures to create a more equitable society within their individual realms. Ms Kanwal Shauzab apprised the participants how legislations in the National Assembly are helping to create platforms to curb inequalities. Ms Romina Khurshid Alam enlightened the audience on how the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2030 can be achieved and used to help organisations chart a course towards inclusiveness. The issues pertaining to access to education across Pakistan and efforts to ensure education for all, irrespective of their gender, social strata and geographical location, were discussed by Mr Saleem Ranjha. Ms Nighat Dad highlighted the legal and gender-based aspects of inequalities; however, the highlight of her talk was another form of inequality, namely the lack of freedom of speech for individuals.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, Lt Gen Naweed Zaman, HI (M), (Retd), Rector NUST, touched upon the measures NUST has been taking to bridge the various divides and address inequalities. He particularly highlighted that NUST faculty, students, and staff hail from all provinces of Pakistan, and special steps are taken to bring in students from tribal and other far-flung areas of the country, including erstwhile refugees. He maintained that female faculty and students formed 23% and 30% of the overall faculty and student populace respectively, whereas 29.5% students were first-generation students, i.e., their parents had never attended post-secondary education. The Rector also spoke about the university’s NEED initiative, which is catering to financial needs of nearly 1800 students under special scholarships supported via donations both by external partners as well as alumni and employees of NUST.