The G8 University Summit (17-19 May 2009) has been held in Torino, in the year of the Italian Presidency of the G8 Heads of State, promoted by CRUI (Conference of Italian Universities Rectors), Politecnico di Torino and the Italian Commission for UNESCO. The meeting involved all the Universities in the G8 countries, the Outreach 5 (Brazil, China, India, and South Africa), the MEM group (South Corea, Australia, Indonesia), some Mediterranean countries, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa to talk about Sustainability.
The aim of the G8 University Summit is to make international contributions representing academia, in order to achieve the sustainability of the global, social and human systems. Carrying forward to Torino the outcomes of the first G8 University Summit, held in Sapporo in 2008, the Presidents attending the 2009 University Summit acknowledge the important role that education and research play in informing, promoting and implementing sustainable and responsible development. It has represented a profitable opportunity to bring university matters back at the center of the international debate revolving around pivotal issues for the survival of our planet and the human societies that inhabit it.
It was a very hard objective to reach, but in any case the number of participants (41) attending from 19 different countries from all over the world, from the very Far East, to the USA, from Europe to South Africa and their agreement on the final declaration shows the result had been very encouraging at the politic level.
The first document, written in order to apply for having Torino and Politecnico as a venue of the event, has been discussed in July 2008, during the previous G8 US held in Sapporo, Japan. Since the application has been accepted, the work on this topics has been carried on for about eight months with a process of organization which involved both Politecnico di Torino and CRUI Foundation according with G8 University Organizing Committee guidelines. A team of so called G8 Sherpa and sous-sherpa had the role of dealing with the agenda setting regarding scientific topics.
Administrative, legal, accounting and financial project management has been followed by both the Politecnico and the CRUI Foundation in a coordinated way. Politecnico was in charge to follow all the organization (communication, facilities, accommodation of delegations, agenda setting), but also to provide the scientific contents and contributions (contact with international experts, selection of participants, writing of the Final Declaration’s draft, …).
In order to involve students in the event, Politecnico has selected a small number of students representatives from all the Nations taking part to the Summit in order to have Ambassadors Students welcoming and supporting the hosted delegation. This has been an international experience for students and it has been very appreciated by all participants.
The event has been structured as a G8 Heads of State Summit, with plenary sessions; during this sessions key-note speakers have pointed out and stressed the relevance of four topics which were discussed by smaller groups directed by a distinguished moderator: Mario Monti (former EC commissioner and actual Italian Prime Minister) for Economics, Pei Gang (academic from the Chinese Academy of Sciences) for Ethics, James Barber (President of the International Society of Photosynthesis Research) for Energy and Kwabena Akyeampong (Viceminister of Turism of Ghana) for Ecology.
The work of the discussion groups was a Final Declaration, which was taken to Rome and delivered to the President of the Italian Council of Ministers just before the G8 Summit starts in L’Aquila.
The intended audience was very large: the communities of scholars and researchers and the Presidents of the Universities; the academic system; the G8 Heads of State; the Government Body and the ones who are involved in strategic decision on policies related to the main topics took into consideration during the Summit; citizens on the whole.
The involvement of academic system was good, because the Summit reached all the most important Universities and University Networks all around the world. The larger audience of citizens was reached by the press coverage, that was rich even if partially dedicated to the anti-globalization clashes which occurred in Torino during the Summit. In any case, also the protest has in some way moved the attention of local press and public opinion on these current events instead of the Agenda topics. On the media side, however, press releases and a final press conference have been useful in order to make a more extended audience aware of the results of the meeting. More than 75 journalists were accredited for the event.
Regarding the spread of the output of the event, the documents provided on a dedicated web site (http://www.g8university.com) have been shared and could be downloaded as well as the final declarations.
The results and our experience in organization are available for the next hosting institution of the Summit.
The event was considered of top relevance by all the organizations involved from the very beginning, during the application phase, to its positive evaluation and definition of the agenda. Both the President of CRUI and the Rector of Politecnico di Torino were aware of the important challenge we were taking and this reflects on how the internal structures from different Divisions reacted at this stimulating project. It means that staff acting at different stages of the project, with different roles in the organization chart, has performed at the maximum level.
During those three days team building has worked well and it has made possible to react to any unscheduled occurring. Delegations have been positively impressed by Italy, Torino and Politecnico itself. Torino has been recently well known for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games and as a result of this past celebration the city showed at its best.
Resources required and sustainability
The main venue was the Castello del Valentino, a 17th Savoy residence in Turin, the historical site of Politecnico di Torino. On the technical side, it has a big challenge to make an historical residence suitable for a summit where technological support has been used such as wall-monitor, streaming, recharging room, PC for plenary and parallel session, audio-video recording, direction...
The result was really satisfactory both in terms of respect of the venue and usability of technologies.
By the side of economic sustainability of the initiative, the forecast budget of the event was not really elevated for an international summit: 325,000 euros represented by the direct costs. For fund raising at a local level Politecnico has negotiate directly with the sponsor from private companies, to banks and other Foundations. The total amount of sponsorships was of 390,000 euros.