Brock Biologist to head a Canadian UN body sectoral commission

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Liette Vasseur, a Brock University Biological Sciences professor and member of the Brock Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, has been appointed to head up a sectoral commission within CCUNESCO.

Vasseur who will now be president of the Canadian Commission for the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s Sectoral Commission on Natural, Social, and Human Sciences, will work with a team of 11 Canadian scientists and academics dedicated to the bettering of Canada and the world.

CCUNESCO operates as a way of guiding and connecting Canadians to the larger work of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), an organization that aims at creating a sustainable, peaceful and equitable future for all.

“The sectoral commission is touching on all sciences so it’s highly interdisciplinary in terms of the work that we’re doing,” Vasseur states. “We’re looking at, for example, one of the priorities, climate change, but climate change not only in terms of the impact on the environment but also the social components, like social justice.”

CCUNESCO also covers other environmental issues like the conservation of natural heritage and water resources, as well as social and cultural issues like the inclusion of vulnerable groups and newcomers. The reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people covered in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as well addressing marginality and measures to fight discrimination, violence, racism, bullying and radicalization.

The variety and vastness of the topics the sectoral commission addresses are significant and need interdisciplinary work to operate. Vasseur states, the group works both within and outside of their specific commission.

“Often we don’t stay only in our sectoral commissions,” she says. “There are two other sectoral commissions, one on communication and one on education, so we’re also connecting with these commissions.”

Vasseur’s appointment to presidency of the sectoral commission of CCUNESCO occurred on October 2, three years after being named the UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability: From Local to Global in June of 2014.

Beyond her work with UNESCO, Vasseur was named Vice-Chair North America and Caribbean Region for The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in September of 2016 as well as leading the Commission on Ecosystem Managements Ecosystem Governance Group.

When asked what students should know about CCUNESCO, Vasseur responded with a call for youth interest and participation, especially at the university level.

“The Canadian Commission for UNESCO has a youth advisory committee,” she adds. “We had at least two of our students here at Brock that were a part of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO at the YAG, which is the Youth Advisory Group.”

YAG is a way that youth professionals and student leaders to have a voice in some of the many topics that CCUNESCO covers, helping both Canada and the world. More information about YAG as well as ways that youth can get involved in UNESCO can be found online at unesco.ca.

As for events, Vasseur will also be representing CCUNESCO at the Gender Summit in Montreal between November 5 to 8.

“I’m the president right now of the Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trade, and Technology so for me gender equality is very important,” Vasseur states. “This is something that has become a priority in many cases for national commissions of UNESCO as well as in my case personally as a woman in science.”

The Gender Summit, host to over 600 advocates for gender equality, is among a series of interconnected, action-based events held across the globe. Operating since 2011, the Gender Summit’s aim is to make gender equality in research and innovation the norm. The Summit will involve discussions on a whole array of perspectives regarding gender equality.

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