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Bright young minds, renowned thought leaders take aim at global problems

North­eastern Uni­ver­sity hosted an inter­na­tional con­fer­ence on Friday and Sat­urday aimed at solving global chal­lenges ranging from gender equality to extreme poverty.

The fifth annual Mil­len­nium Campus Con­fer­ence con­vened world-​​renowned speakers and more than 1,000 col­lege stu­dents from the United States and devel­oping coun­tries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

Each year the con­fer­ence focuses on addressing the United Nations’ Mil­len­nium Devel­op­ment Goals, eight objec­tives that U.N. mem­bers pledged in 2000 to achieve by 2015. These goals include erad­i­cating extreme poverty and hunger; pro­moting gender equality; and com­bating HIV/ ​​AIDS, malaria, and other dis­eases. This year’s con­fer­ence empha­sized the impor­tance of part­nering with com­mu­ni­ties in order to foster global eco­nomic development.

In his keynote address Sat­urday morning, Jef­frey Sachs, director of the Earth Insti­tute at Columbia Uni­ver­sity, noted that the devel­op­ment goals have accom­plished a great deal, including cut­ting extreme poverty in half.

“There has been a tremen­dous amount of progress,” Sachs said. “The Mil­len­nium Devel­op­ment Goals helped to draw atten­tion, to focus policy, to engage young leaders, and to open the eyes of com­mu­ni­ties that poverty is not a matter of fate or accep­tance, but some­thing that can and needs to be changed.”

Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance at the U.S Agency of International Development, delivers her keynote address. Photo by Mariah Tauger.

Nancy Lind­borg, assis­tant admin­is­trator for the Bureau for Democ­racy, Con­flict and Human­i­tarian Assis­tance at the U.S Agency of Inter­na­tional Devel­op­ment, delivers her keynote address. Photo by Mariah Tauger.

Along with Sachs, other renowned experts who deliv­ered keynote addresses included: Nancy Lind­borg, of the U.S Agency of Inter­na­tional Devel­op­ment; Peace Corps acting director Carrie Hessler-​​Radelet; inter­na­tional busi­ness leader and social activist Ken­neth Cole, chairman and chief cre­ative officer of Ken­neth Cole Pro­duc­tions who served as Northeastern’s com­mence­ment speaker in 2009; Ahmad Alhen­dawi, the U.N. Sec­re­tary Gen­eral’ s Envoy on Youth; social entre­pre­neur Tiburce Chaffa; and Sakena Yacoobi, exec­u­tive director of the Afghan Insti­tute of Learning.

The con­fer­ence is run by the Mil­len­nium Campus Net­work, a Boston-​​based non­profit orga­ni­za­tion com­prising stu­dent groups on cam­puses in Boston, Chicago, New York, and Wash­ington, D.C. North­eastern hosted the MCC last year and is the first uni­ver­sity to repeat as host of the con­fer­ence, which began in 2008.

In a wel­come video played Friday evening, North­eastern Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun acknowl­edged the hard work of the North­eastern student-​​leaders who helped orga­nize the con­fer­ence. “It speaks vol­umes of their com­mit­ment to your global causes,” Aoun said.

The con­fer­ence aligns with Northeastern’s focus on con­ducting research that helps solve global chal­lenges in health, secu­rity, and sus­tain­ability, par­tic­u­larly through its com­mit­ment to expe­ri­en­tial edu­ca­tion through which stu­dents work, study, and con­duct research in 114 coun­tries worldwide.

Fifth-​​year stu­dent Nada Eweiss, a com­bined inter­na­tional affairs and eco­nomics major at North­eastern, deliv­ered a keynote address Friday evening. The Egypt native, who is an intern at MCN, said NGOs need to com­mu­ni­cate better with the com­mu­ni­ties they are assisting.

Eweiss got involved with MCN after attending last year’s con­fer­ence. Of the eight Mil­len­nium Devel­op­mental Goals, she is par­tic­u­larly inter­ested in helping to erad­i­cate extreme poverty. She saw the impact extreme poverty could have on people during the Arab Spring in Egypt, which she expe­ri­enced firsthand.

“That was a changing point in my life,” said Eweiss, who lived about 20 min­utes from Tahrir Square. “I saw things through a very dif­ferent lens. I saw how so much suf­fering is going on and how extreme poverty has been an insti­gator to express anger.”

Many North­eastern fac­ulty mem­bers spoke at the conference’s work­shops. For example, inter­na­tional affairs pro­fessor Denise Horn dis­cussed modern day slavery, and African-​​American studies asso­ciate pro­fessor Kwamina Pan­ford explained how the per­cep­tion of Africa dif­fers from its reality.

– By Joe O’Connell

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