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President, Lee C. Bollinger
Columbia University
President, Lee C. Bollinger
Secretary-General of the United, Nations, Ban Ki-moon
Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Ban Ki-moon

Global Colloquium of University Presidents

Columbia University welcomed the sixth meeting of the Global Colloquium of University Presidents on Monday, April 2 and Tuesday, April 3, 2012. The Colloquium is an invitation-only meeting of 25-30 university presidents from around the world. Each president is accompanied by a faculty expert on the chosen topic. The Colloquium meets annually to discuss a topic of immediate concern to leaders in higher education at universities around the world, and of particular and timely interest to the Secretary-General and the international community. Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger is a founding member of the Global Colloquium of University Presidents, which is sponsored by five leading American research universities – Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University – on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Keynote Address

United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, opened the Colloquium with a World Leaders Forum address on Monday, April 2 in the Rotunda of Low Memorial Library.  He addressed the Colloquium participants and members of the Columbia University community with a speech titled From Youth Explosion to Global Transformation:  Unleashing the Power of Young People.

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The topic of the 2012 Colloquium was “Global Effects of the Youth Population Surge: Addressing the Needs of the Largest Generation of Young People the World Has Ever Known.”

In the wake of the global financial and economic crisis, and with the more recent developments in North Africa and the Middle East, youth issues have risen to the top of national and international agendas. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has made working with and for young people one of the key priorities of his second term action agenda.   In his speech to the General Assembly in January 2012, he called on the United Nations to do all that it can to meet the needs and create opportunities for the largest generation of young people the world has ever known. Youth employment, entrepreneurship, political participation, human rights, education and reproductive health will be areas of key focus over the next five years. The Secretary-General has further announced the appointment of a new Special Advisor for youth to develop and implement this agenda and spearhead a UN youth volunteers programme.

The Secretary-General’s initiative will build on existing UN programs that support youth development and promote the importance of investing in young people. It takes as a starting point, the World Programme of Action for Youth, adopted by the General Assembly in 1995, which provides a policy framework and practical guidelines for national action and international support to achieve an environment in which young people can fully develop their potential.

The work of the United Nations on youth is coordinated through the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD), a network of more than 30 United Nations entities.  The United Nations’ engagement on youth related issues is broad. Areas of work include youth and health, youth and education, youth and employment, youth and political participation, youth and violence and youth and social media. 

Colloquium Agenda

The Colloquium sessions were open only to the Colloquium participants and included presentations by Columbia University faculty and representatives from the United Nations.

The university presidents discussed the global impact of the youth population surge and the responsibility of universities in meeting educational needs and creating opportunities for the largest generation of young people the world has ever known.  Together they worked to determine an outline of higher education objectives and action steps towards building a positive future for youth.

The faculty experts discussed the United Nations’ Youth 21 initiative and long term goals to build multiple platforms that address the youth situation in the world, their struggle for democracy and basic needs. 

The Colloquium will produce a final report that includes the background paper, memoranda prepared by each president and faculty expert in response to the background paper, and recommendations and specific proposed outcomes, agreed upon by the Colloquium participants.

Background Materials

In preparation of this year's Colloquium, background materials included the United Nations' "Working with and For Young People" document and the press announcement surrounding Youth 21. Youth 21, an initiative of UN Habitat, aims to engage more firmly with young people around the world and activate the global community to take the action steps addressing the youth situation in the world, their struggle for democracy and basic needs. 

Additionally, Michael Doyle, PhD, Harold Brown Professor of U.S. Foreign and Security Policy within the School of International and Public Affairs, the Department of Political Science, and the Law School, and Kenneth Prewitt, PhD, Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs and the Vice-President for Global Centers, served as President Bollinger’s academic counsel in the Colloquium planning. They prepared a background research paper on "21st Century Youth in the Developing World" which provided a framework and starting point for the conversations among the Colloquium participants.


The Global Colloquium of University Presidents is convened by the presidents of the five sponsoring institutions -- Lee C. Bollinger (Columbia University), Amy Gutmann (University of Pennsylvania), Richard Levin (Yale University), John Sexton (New York University), and Shirley Tilghman (Princeton University) -- on behalf of and with the participation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.