Wednesday, 4 March, 2009: President of Ireland, Mary McAleese will today (Wednesday, 4 March) visit NUI Galway to officially launch the UNESCO Chair for Children, Youth and Civic Engagement. The UNESCO Chair is the first awarded in the Republic of Ireland, and President McAleese described it as a ‘fitting endorsement by peers worldwide of the important work that is being done at NUI Galway to help solve the real problems experienced by young people and families in our communities’.
The Chair is hosted at the Child and Family Research Centre (CFRC) in the University’s School of Political Science and Sociology. Professor Pat Dolan, Director of the CFRC, with over 20 years experience in family support, policy and research, is the Chairholder.
Referencing writer John McGahern at the launch, Professor Dolan told an audience of over 200 guests: “While many young people thrive during childhood, others sadly do not experience life as good or safe and some more tragically can say they rarely have a ‘calm journey through the day’”.
Professor Dolan said that supporting children who experience adversity and disadvantage through encouraging civic participation had crucial benefits in terms of improved self-esteem, self-efficacy and wellbeing. He said: “I have come to the conclusion, that civically engaging children and youth produces benefits for all children. Particularly in the case of children who are experiencing severe difficulties, their civic engagement can lead to significant improvement and help rebuild key relationships in their lives”.
Koïchiro Matsuura, Director–General of UNESCO has said: “NUI Galway has a longstanding commitment to civic engagement. The creation of this Chair is an opportunity to expand and share this expertise for the benefit of children and young people everywhere, in particular the most vulnerable and marginalised.
Funded under the UNESCO University Education Twinning and Networking Scheme, the programme of work associated with the Chair, will focus on an exchange of learning among international University partners and affiliated centres for children, which work on civic engagement programmes in countries including Bulgaria, Lithuania and Zambia.
NUI Galway’s President, Dr James J. Browne, speaking at the launch, said: NUI Galway is particularly honoured to be awarded the first UNESCO Chair in the Republic of Ireland. The establishment of a formal mechanism for knowledge creation and exchange in the area of Children, Youth and Civic Engagement across, and between, institutions of higher education and non-governmental organisations particularly with developing countries and countries in transition will bring a new dimension to the work of the University. We look forward to fruitful cooperation with UNESCO and are delighted to have this opportunity to enhance the role of the University in building civil society partnerships”.
Professor Dolan’s team will work with two key partners in Ireland: the Community Knowledge Initiative at NUI Galway, a forum through which the University plays a leading role in the development of civic leadership skills in students. The second partner is Foróige, Ireland’s leading voluntary youth organisation, whose CEO Seán Campbell said: “This is indeed a proud day for Ireland”. He added “I am certain that the meeting of theory, practice and policy that will result from this partnership will transform the lives of young people the world over”.