Lehigh has maintained a collaborative bond with the United Nations for 10 years, providing the university community many opportunities to learn from the ideas and insights of various world leaders.
Most recently, Ukpeme Akpan, the president of the Guild of Adjudicators in Nigeria, visited Lehigh on March 26 to give a lecture about the power of action and peace toward a world facing strong globalization.
In Nigeria, there has been much developmental hindrance, primarily due to the court system. Akpan said her mission is to expedite the court system’s process by introducing the option of adjudication. These hindrances, according to Akpan, have affected construction in Nigeria. With structures being stopped halfway through their construction due to worker protests, Akpan said moving through the traditional court system can take months, if not years.
Akpan not only supports adjudication as a method of speeding up her country’s convoluted and lengthy court process, but she also expresses need for other kinds of alternative dispute resolutions that take traffic out of the traditional court system.
It would not have been possible for Akpan to come Lehigh if it were not for William Hunter, the director of International Outreach at Lehigh. Hunter has helped foster relations with the United Nations since the beginning of its fruition at Lehigh.
Lehigh became a non-governmental organization in 2004, and has since provided a broad range of opportunities for both students and faculty. Lehigh also created the United Nations Youth Representative Program, which brings students to represent Lehigh at weekly meetings at the United Nations.
“This is open to all students,” Hunter said. “There is no entry point, there’s no entry fee, just walk in the door or reply to an email. That’s all it takes,” Hunter said.
The program is not considered a club, but rather a group of students who represent Lehigh as an NGO. With help from Hunter, this program has brought students to several United Nations’ meetings in New York.
“Since we started our partnership in 2004, we are the sixth university to have non-governmental organization accreditation, but we are the first university to come up with youth representatives and there are now over 400 youth representatives around the world,” said Savannah Boylan, ’15, a member in her fourth year in the program. “This all started with Lehigh sending three students to the United Nations, with this idea of having them representing NGOs from around the world who can’t make it to New York.”
Akpan coming to Lehigh is a small example of how widely the United Nations Representative Youth Program has impacted the university.
Dan Coviello, ’13 ’15G, participated in an internship with the United Nations through Lehigh in the past.
“Lehigh students not only started (the Youth Representative Program) but have been improving it,” he said. “The UN wasn’t telling young people ‘This is what you should be doing,’ it was the young people who helped solidify themselves and grow the program.”
Before coming to Lehigh, Akpan said she had never even heard of the university. It wasn’t until Hunter spoke to her at a meeting in New York with the United Nations that Akpan learned of Lehigh.
“I met William Hunter during the conference last year at the UN and he spoke about the UN and their student program and I found it very interesting,” Akpan said.
After speaking to the benefits of an expedited adjudication process, Akpan gave the students a message to reflect on.
“(Students should) believe in themselves, build their potentials and prepare for the future, and because of globalization the possibilities are endless,” Akpan said. “Students should leave with that preparedness to face the future with positivism and with an attitude to contribute to global development.”
Although Akpan came to speak on behalf of her organization, she spoke about her mission and left students with the revelation of following their own mission.