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The UWI and Open Society Foundations sign landmark MOU to deepen collaboration

The UWI and Open Society Foundations sign landmark MOU to deepen collaboration

One of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world, Open Society Foundations (OSF), has demonstrated its alignment with the strategic vision of The University of the West Indies (The UWI).  This was symbolized by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two entities — signed by Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and President of the OSF, Ambassador Patrick Gaspard on Thursday, September 17, 2020. 

This collaboration agreement between both institutions is the culmination of several months of discussions in support of Open Society’s dedicated strategy for engaging the Caribbean, led by their Latin America Program team and the University Office of Global Partnerships and Sustainable Futures. It comes at a time when the vulnerability of the Caribbean region is heightened, as it confronts a crisis of unprecedented proportions, resulting from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing effects of climate change.  

The Open Society Foundations was founded by one of the world’s foremost philanthropists, George Soros, who has donated over US$32 billion to help build open societies across the globe by promoting justice, democratic governance and human rights. 

President Gaspard underscored the Open Society Foundations’ commitment to investing in higher education, a key pillar of an open society. 

“This MOU further cements a long-term and deep relationship and reaffirms our commitment to address issues important to The UWI, OSF and the Caribbean. Together, we will work to fight climate change, racial injustice, and attacks on democracy,” Gaspard said.

Over the past six years, The UWI has worked with Open Society and received grant funding that supported ground-breaking child development research, successful strategic litigation for decriminalizing same-sex relationships, and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leadership on cannabis decriminalization at regional and international levels. More recently, the Open Society Foundations approved a grant to The UWI to support the University’s wide-ranging climate change research and focus on climate justice as well as the consolidation of climate initiatives through its Global Institute for Climate-Smart and Resilient Development.

This comes on the heels of his keynote address to Heads of Government and Ministers at a regional meeting of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) last week. At that meeting, Vice-Chancellor Beckles emphasized the significance of The UWI’s global collaborations which help to keep the Caribbean as well as the University’s research on issues affecting the region, at the centre of discourses on development. 

“Our interconnectedness as a global community emphasizes the need for transnational responses to address the unique multidimensional development challenges faced by Caribbean societies.  We cannot do it alone.  Open Society Foundation is demonstrating its exceptional leadership and deep concern for the Caribbean and we warmly welcome this,” explained Vice-Chancellor Beckles.  “Our efforts to build a world-class regional university cannot be allowed to dissipate at this critical time.  We continue to strengthen our network of partners and through our collaborations, provide opportunities for young people and support to our regional governments as they undertake the economic and social transformation needed to build more just, inclusive and sustainable societies,” Vice-Chancellor Beckles added.  

The joint activities between Open Society Foundations and The UWI are expected to include academic and educational content; research and innovation initiatives as well as training workshops, conferences, symposia, etc. Institutional and/or capacity building initiatives are also anticipated and importantly, education and outreach to promote human rights and democracy in the Caribbean region.  Participation in the Open Society University Network (OSUN) is also being explored.

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