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NEWS | OCEAN CONFERENCE 2017

Bergen and Fiji expand partnership

The University of Bergen and the University of the South Pacific announced the establishment of a joint marine chair at a reception during the UN Ocean Conference.

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PACIFIC PARTNERS: UiB's Jarl Giske (left) and USP's Rajesh Chandra launching a unique joint marine chair at the UN Ocean Conference in New York, thus strengthening the ties between the two universities.
PACIFIC PARTNERS: UiB's Jarl Giske (left) and USP's Rajesh Chandra launching a unique joint marine chair at the UN Ocean Conference in New York, thus strengthening the ties between the two universities.

The joint marine chair builds on long-term cooperation between the University of Bergen (UiB) and the University of the South Pacific (USP). In autumn 2016, UiB's Rector, Dag Rune Olsen, visited Fiji and USP to strengthen cooperation. The new chair will be interdisciplinary and is for a three-year period, starting 2018. This underlines the comprehensive cooperation between the partner universities.

Partnership between Norway and the Pacific

USP is a regional university comprising 12 island states in the Pacific. The university's headquarter is in Fiji. Since the 1990s, Professor Edvard Hviding from UiB's Department of Social Anthropology has had ongoing cooperation with Fiji and USP through several major projects. Since then, the collaboration has been extended to include more disciplines and student exchange. With the new joint chair, the partnership between UiB and USP is further strengthened.

“First, this means that our cooperation and partnership with the University of Bergen is moved to a new level. Second, it means that we are making a very concrete and meaningful contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals. And third, it is a building block for extending prepares the cooperation that we have between our two universities,” said Professor Rajesh Chandra, President and Vice-Chancellor of USP, on announcing the joint marine chair at the reception.

Previously, the two universities have collaborated closely on the major EU-funded research project ECOPAS (2012-2016), which through a link of anthropology, climate research and performing arts looked at the challenges the population of the Pacific island experience as a result of climate change. Both UiB and USP share a commitment to research and education in marine subjects, climate studies and Pacific Studies.

“This is one of several partnerships we have developed over a long time. With the new joint marine chair we build on this collaboration and commit ourselves in the even longer run. This partnership also ties in with all of UiB's three priority areas: global challenges, climate and energy transition, and marine research,” said UiB's Marine Dean Jarl Giske at the reception.

Supporting sustainable development

By launching the initiative as a “voluntary commitment” at the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York, which took place the first week of June 2017, the partner universities also underlined their support for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN for the 2015–2030 timeframe. At the conference delegates from nation states, NGOs, academia, industry and others discussed the SDGs, with a particular focus on SDG14: Life Below Water.

“Climate change and the ocean are inextricably linked within most of the SDGs for the people of the Pacific. In his opening note at the conference, the Honourable Prime Minister of Fiji said that the ocean runs through his blood. It conditions the life and livelihood of all Fijians. In that sense, this joint marine chair is a crucial element for us,” said Chandra.

“Therefore, we are excited to announce the establishment of the joint marine chair together with UiB at this wonderful event.”

For UiB this provides an opportunity to expand the cooperation with USP to make this a truly interdisciplinary partnership. Not the least this also emphasizes UiB's position as “the international university” in Norway.

“As a university, we are too small to be involved everywhere all the time. This is why we pick our partnerships carefully, so that we can commit ourselves and be present over the long run. USP is one of our cherished partners and we derive mutual benefits from our collaboration. And with the new marine chair, we strengthen this further,” said Giske.