ACUNS Vienna 2018: 'Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls'

VIENNA, 10 January 2018 - 'Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls' was the focus of the 2018 Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) Vienna Annual Conference, which took place from 10-12 January in the Vienna International Centre (VIC). The Conference was organized by the Vienna Liaison Office of the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS).

The Conference was opened with a speech by Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed in which she expressed her thanks to everyone for everything they do to promote the work of the United Nations and multilateralism. She emphasized the importance of education for the promotion of SDG #5 Gender Equality and mentioned that the elimination of discrimination and violence against girls is a priority.

The opening session included remarks by various speakers such as Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary CTBTO; Christine Stix-Hackl, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations; Brendon Hammer, Ambassador of Australian Embassy and Permanent Mission to the United Nations; Helen Eduards, Ambassador of Sweden to Austria, Slovakia and Slovenia, and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Doaa Al Zamel, Syrian student and subject of 'A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee's Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival'. 

Doaa Al Zamel shared her personal journey with the audience. She fled the war in Syria through Egypt and crossed the sea to Europe. She was among the few survivors of a boat journey and rescued a small child in the process.

The sessions of the 2017-2018 Regional Academy on the United Nations (RAUN) took place 9-12 January. The RAUN, a mobile academy first launched in January 2012, is hosted by ACUNS, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna and the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. The aim of RAUN is to equip the next generation of leaders and policy makers with profound knowledge and the tools needed to face the global challenges of the 21st century.

RAUN sessions included important issues that ranged from topics such as 'Impact of violence and drugs on women and their role as solution providers', 'Cross-cutting gender issues: migration, corruption and environment' to 'A more gender-balanced world: Women participation in policy, political, economic and development spheres'.

UNIS Deputy Director Sonja Wintersberger delivered welcome remarks on behalf of the United Nations Information Service. She stressed Secretay-General Guterres' call for unity with the quote 'Conflicts have deepened and new dangers have emerged, anxieties about nuclear weapons are the highest since the Cold War; climate change is moving faster than we are, inequalities are growing, we see horrific violations of human rights and nationalism and xenophobia are on the rise'. Sonja Wintersberger mentioned that the students contribute to this endeavour in their direct engagement with the United Nations through their academic research, focusing on the situation of Women and Girls in a Changing World.

The participants, Bachelor and Master students of international relations, law, economics and related fields from different countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia) presented their research papers. The presentations were followed by a panel discussion, giving the students the opportunity to receive feedback from the judges evaluating their papers and to address questions raised by the jury.

The young participants' commitment, passion and enthusiasm were essential to RAUN's success.