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"A violation of global responsibilities"

Published: 8 December 2020

In recent years, a number of events have occurred that clearly violate global responsibility when it comes to climate and health-related challenges, fundamental democratic values and academic freedom. Two such examples have caused several Swedish university vice-chancellors to react.

One is when Donald Trump last spring decided to withdraw the entire US annual budget of 400 million dollars to the WHO (15 percent of its total budget), and the other when it emerged in November that the threat of execution against the imprisoned Swedish-Iranian researcher Ahmadreza Djalali now is urgent.

The World Health Organization WHO is one of the UN's specialized bodies and plays an important role in maintaining international public health. Over the years, the WHO has combated devastating infectious diseases such as SARS, malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS and Ebola. The WHO's loss of 15% of its budget will have tangible negative consequences for public health around the world. The fact that this also happens when the world is in the middle of the covid-19 pandemic and people need the WHO the most is a devastating blow to both the world's health situation and economies, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Because, as always, it is the weak who suffer the most.

"Attack on democratic values"

Iran's imprisonment of Ahmadreza Djalali, a Swedish citizen and prominent researcher in disaster medicine, just over four years ago is an attack on fundamental democratic values, academic freedom and on free research and dissemination of knowledge. The fact that his death sentence now seems close to being executed has caused politicians, Nobel laureates and a number of organizations around the world to react strongly. 21 of us vice-chancellors of Swedish universities and colleges recently wrote a debate article in which we call on the Swedish government, as well as the international community, to act forcefully to get Ahmadreza Djalali released.

Luleå University of Technology is a member of Scholars at Risk (SAR), an international network of institutions and individuals whose mission it is to protect scholars and promote academic freedom.
Academic freedom is the backbone of the academy and is a foundation for a democratic society. Throughout history, academic freedom has been a principle that has united universities around the world and that constitutes a guarantor of the credibility of science.
At the EHEA (European Higher Education Area) Ministerial Conference in November this year, the issue was high on the agenda, among other things through the adoption of the so-called Rome Ministerial Communiqué.

Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn, Vice-Chancellor of Luleå University of Technology

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