Newcastle to become a ‘United Nations City’ and Asia-Pacific training hub

Friday, 2 October 2015

Newcastle will become Australia's newest 'United Nations City' and a training hub for the Asia-Pacific region, under the leadership of Associate Professor Graham Brewer, following a UN decision to locate an International Training Centre at the University of Newcastle (UON).

The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) maintains a global network of 14 International Training Centres for Authorities and Leaders, known by their French acronym 'CIFAL'. The network of CIFAL hubs builds capacity among government authorities and society leaders on issues of sustainable development and meeting global goals of the UN.

UON will host the 15th CIFAL hub in the network. The Newcastle hub will become UNITAR's Centre for Disaster Preparedness and Risk Reduction, based on UON's disciplinary strengths in areas such as disaster resilience and recovery. The Newcastle CIFAL will also serve as UNITAR's base for capacity building across the Asia-Pacific.

Sally Fegan-Wyles, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director, UNITAR, said the strong alignment between UON, the City of Newcastle and UNITAR led to Newcastle's successful bid.

"We were fortunate that this great city's political and academic leaders not only shared our vision, they worked hard to realise it," said Ms Fegan-Wyles.

"As a result, Newcastle will host the fifteenth International Training Centre for Authorities and Leaders (CIFAL) representing a model for collaboration between the United Nations, the University of Newcastle and Newcastle City Council."

"I thank the Lord Mayor of Newcastle and the University of Newcastle's leadership for supporting this initiative."

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen, said UNITAR's decision to locate its new training centre in Newcastle would enhance the Hunter's global engagement and provide new opportunities to build partnerships.

"Being selected to join this prestigious global network is a proud moment for the University of Newcastle, our city and this region and cements our status as a globally-engaged hub city," said Professor McMillen.

"CIFAL Newcastle will build on the academic strengths of the University in disaster recovery disciplines and help our researchers and partners to shape cutting-edge programs that make a real difference to communities around the world coping with the aftermath of disaster."

The Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Councillor Nuatali Nelmes, said Council's vision was for Newcastle to be a smart, innovative and resilient city.

"Over the years Newcastle has displayed outstanding resilience through natural disasters including the 1989 earthquake, the floods in both 2007 and 2015, and in adapting to after the BHP Steelworks closed," she said.

"As a Council we have recognised the importance of resilience in the face of hazards, the need to build our capacity to respond, and to understand and manage environment and climate change risks.

"The Council has a long relationship of support for the University, recognising its critical role as a source of innovation, education and employment for our region, and an important catalyst for growing the city's international connections.

"We are proud to partner with the University to attract global international training providers to Newcastle. This is a fantastic tripartite opportunity for Newcastle that will contribute to the international standing of our city."

Associate Professor Graham Brewer, the new Director of CIFAL Newcastle, said the collaboration between UNITAR and UON provided an opportunity to leverage their complementary strengths and academic synergies to produce cutting-edge training programs.

"This is a tremendous achievement for the University, and a great reflection of the character of the city and people of the Hunter."

"CIFAL Newcastle will play an important role in developing the capacity of organisations at home and across our region to meet the Sustainable Development Goals recently adopted by the world nations and other global agreements such as the Sendai Accord signed last March in Japan."

"We will quickly become an international hub for the exchange of ideas."

Associate Professor Brewer said the partnership began with UON and UNITAR working to identify and develop academic synergies, and will lead to significant education outcomes.

"A new suite of postgraduate qualifications is in development that integrate UNITAR's expertise with that of UON's School of Architecture and Built Environment, the first of which will be the Graduate Certificate in Disaster Risk Reduction."

"This programme, developed with UNITAR, is understood to be the first qualification of its type in the world. It will fill a substantial gap in the knowledge base of related practitioners, through exposure to UNITAR's online 'CityShare' platform and CIFAL Newcastle's visiting experts."

Graduates will have the capacity to identify hazards, assess disaster risks and plan mitigation strategies, for government, enterprise and community-based organisations. The programme is designed to be available both on campus and online, and will commence in the second trimester of 2016.

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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.