“Universities and true knowledge are under threat”

Peter Friberg.

Dear reader

Once again, we have entered December. In Sweden it means some light in the darkness and Nobel celebrations. Nobel prizes both in Stockholm and Oslo bring great joy. Glamour and science in a wonderful union; science for society and mankind. I was particularly amazed and inspired by Donna Strickland who conveyed such a love for her field of science. Other laureates who made a deep impression on all of us are Dennis Mukwege and Nadia Murad. They bring hope to the world.

During the Nobel celebrations the COP 24 Katowice meeting was also on-going. World leaders have serious difficulties to agree on a way forward for the climate – coal and oil darken our horizons along with some paralyzed politicians questioning the reliability of the recent IPCC science-based report. Low/middle- and high-income countries cannot come to terms with the financing issues which is even more sad thinking of the world’s military spending in 2017 which amounted to 1.69 trillion US dollars. We need a constructive global integration of climate and growth as elegantly presented by Nobel laureate William Nordhaus during his visit to Stockholm. The need for new thinking in the climate issue could also be expressed through another laureate; Albert Einstein who got a question from his student: “But prof Einstein, these questions are the same as they were in last year’s exam!” Einstein answered: “Yes, but this year the answers are different!”

Also, the discussion about the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals in the climate negotiations were quite absent in Katowice? Have the heads of states considered SDG 10 and 16, beyond the climate and environment goals? The prevailing global inequalities, the quality of governments, the strength of institutions and the magnitude of corruption – all these targets need to be taken into account. Don’t they want to see a prosperous future for their children and grandchildren? It is time for the UN to really make a difference! Involve the Security Council – this is about security of our planet and people’s health. Maybe we have to add a UN planetary governance institution?

The importance of universities as societal cornerstones for research and education, teaching in schools cannot be emphasized enough. Universities and true knowledge are under threat. We see more and more fake news and actions taken to mistreat facts and scientists. The IPCC report is questioned. In Italy the Minister of Health fired the whole national health care council (Consiglio Superiore di Sanità) comprising 30 experts. The health minister now wants new experts who share the political agenda of the Five Star Movement. Another serious threat to freedom in Hungary and to the academic freedom came recently with The Central European University being pushed out of the country. This is the first university to be forced out of an EU country – on political grounds.

Our universities are integrated in our societies; knowledge and education are our ways forward. These must be protected with all our energy. Here, the powerful ”International Association of Universities, IAU”, founded by UNESCO, must continue acting strongly and lead the fight for academic freedom and our mutual values of ethics, social justice and human rights. Please also read the report in this Newsletter from the recent IAU meeting in Kuala Lumpur by SIGHT’s student coordinator Wiebke Mohr. We must never forget the power of students as powerful change agents.

Thanks to a generous donation of the Einhorn Family Foundation, SIGHT had the great pleasure to award the 2018 SIGHT Award to Johanna Lindahl for her strong scientific contribution in global health with focus on antimicrobial resistance and the interaction between humans and animals – One Health! Our congratulations. Learn more about Johanna and her research in this Newsletter. This year’s SIGHT Award ceremony was held at the Eric Ericson hall in Stockholm with wonderful music and performance by the Swedish Youth Choir conducted by Eric Westberg.

But not at least: My warmest thanks to all of you for this year, for your investments, support and passion for global health. It warms my heart and makes me look forward to 2019 for all of us! Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

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