Education is the vanguard of international collaboration and the Higher Education Commission (HEC) is fully committed to solution-oriented academic and research partnerships with foreign entities.
This was stated by Chairman HEC Tariq Banuri while addressing a networking get-together with a delegation of the charity-based UK-Pakistan Science Innovation Global Network (UPSIGN) and United Kingdom Research & Innovation (UKRI) held at the Commission Secretariat.
The UPSGISN and UKRI are jointly holding three global development workshops in Islamabad. The third of this series of workshops is being held tomorrow, March 12, 2020. Over 150 academics from the UK, Pakistan and across the region have travelled to Islamabad to take part in the workshops, addressing sustainable development challenges linked to Food Security, Agriculture & Nutrition; Affordable Healthcare; and, Clean and Affordable Energy/Water in Pakistan and the Region. The workshops are aimed at creating and fostering new relationships and developing new networks to address challenges aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The Chairman HEC stressed the need for efforts to bring people together, stating that education is the main vehicle to bring people together. He observed that the world has now realized that the problems prevailing all over, including terrorism, COVID-19, and poverty etc, are of similar nature and they need to be tackled through mutual collaboration. “The world is witnessing the growing trend of efforts for global peace, as there is awareness that the fundamental and central goal should be peace.” He noted that war used to be considered the greatest source of glory in the past, however it is now seen as an evil.
He welcomed UPSIGN workshops in Pakistan. He maintained that the workshop themes are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which have been outlined after a long process of thinking. Pakistan and the United Kingdom have a lot of potential for collaboration. He urged the UPSIGN delegation to consider triangular partnerships with Pakistan, involving any third country to help resolve its problems. He said the triangular partnerships have greater potential under budget constraints. “Solving their problems may help us learn how to solve our problems,” he added. He said HEC is keen to benefit the ability to imitate those who resolve their problems.
The first workshop of the series called “Food Security, Agriculture & Nutrition”, focused on the issues related to food security and challenges faced by food production in Pakistan, e.g. development of system solutions to address malnutrition through maximized dietary diversity and quality. The workshop also discussed strategies to tackle the spread of diseases from livestock to humans (Zoonotic Disease) and the overuse of antibiotics for livestock in Pakistan. The workshop also explored the development of integrated pest management strategies for the control of insect pests of economic and health importance.
The workshop on Affordable Healthcare covered topics on Health, Gender and Mental Health and Reproductive Health, in addition to issues experienced by children and adolescents and their impact in mental health. Other topics within the scope included bio-materials and regenerative medicine for developing low-cost healthcare solutions for the management of wounds and injuries.
The third workshop on Clean and Affordable Energy/Water will discuss issues and solutions to Pakistan’s key challenges as a water-stressed but heavily water-dependent economy. Surface water supplies are variable and have been declining over the past decade. Pakistan is home to the world’s second most over-stressed aquifer, yet it is the world’s top groundwater exporting country.
Chairman UPSIGN Prof Jawwad Dar shed light on the role of UPSIGN as a bridge between Pakistan and the UK higher education sectors. He said UPSIGN, structured as an executive group and academics, is a registered charity entity working on partnerships for mutual benefit. He said the UPSIGN seeks to improve ‘’Communication, Coordination and Cooperation’’ between the Pakistan and UK academics and institutions on all levels from universities, public and private organisations, business sector, and Non-Government Organisations. It has aligned its efforts to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
UKRI Lead Prof Nicola said, “UKRI is excited to work in Pakistan to address challenges aligned to the UNSDGs (UNSDGs (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals), indeed, UKRI has allocated a total of £1.5b for research in partnership with low and middle income countries to address such challenges through the Global Challenges Research Fund.” UKRI is investing up to £200k (PKR. 40 million) on these workshops alone.
Co-Founder UPSIGN Dr Khalid Mahmood said, “this is an exciting time where top universities and research institutes are taking part in the workshops. This includes researchers from more than 30 UK universities and research Institutes.”