DOT4D PI Dr Glenda Cox, UNESCO Chair in Open Education and Social Justice, attended the 30th anniversary of the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme: Transforming knowledge for just and sustainable futures event at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris on 3–4 November 2022.
This in-person conference aimed to bring together as many of the 850 university chairs and networks from over 110 countries as possible to build intellectual and scientific cooperation at national, regional and global levels. In total, 500 chairs attended this interdisciplinary conference. Other delegates included students, government officials, private-sector representatives and academics in the process of applying for a UNESCO Chair.
Professor Achille Mbembe from the University of Witwatersrand was the opening keynote and his powerful words inspired critical conversations: What is the direction the world will take? Where is knowledge produced and where does it come from? Who and what is knowledge for?
Mbembe criticised Eurocentrism and capitalism. He invited everyone to “draw knowledge from world archives” so that all knowledge commons are brought together. He argued that power structures needed changing and that there is no “weft in the world”. In order to build a world fabric to live on this planet, we must work towards caring, repairing and sharing. He concluded with a call for decolonisation, reparation and restitution; as well as an acknowledgement of the need for epistemic justice and a rethinking of knowledge based on care.
Glenda presented in a panel on “Information as a public good in the digital era”, in which she argued for teaching materials to be made “public goods” through open licensing approaches that enable universal accessibility and reuse of content. The lively panel discussion included Chairs in Artificial Intelligence, Education Ecosystems for Equity, and Quality of Learning and Communication.
Glenda also presented a short keynote presentation on “Open education for social justice: Students as partners in transdisciplinary research” in a panel on “Transdisciplinarity to face the pressing issues of the 21st century”, in which she highlighted the importance of including students in open textbook creation and quality assurance process. The panel included three students from EffiSciences, who spoke about their transdisciplinary research.
The closing panel sessions called for building resilience and capacity in a “movement of knowing and sharing” and for hope and collective effort despite current global disruptions and challenges. We must work collectively, tell stories to each other and decide which ones to continue and which ones to abandon. We need to interrogate our cultural biases; instead of “seeing the world through one eye we must be trying to achieve both eyes”.
There was a call for more Chairs in the Global South. If you are interested in applying, please contact Glenda <email@example.com> for advice and guidance on the process.