During the Opening of the Academic Year 2014/2016 on 16 October 2014, Rector András Szöllösi-Nagy welcomed 170 new MSc students, from 52 different countries at UNESCO-IHE. Guest speaker Her Excellency Judge Joyce Aluoch spoke about her work at the International Criminal Court and Dr Tom Okia Okurut, Executive Director, National Environmental Management Authority (MENA) in Uganda gave an inspiring acceptance speech after receiving this years Alumni Award.
Rector Andras Szollosi-Nagy informed the new batch of students what awaits them during their 18 month intensive academic period. They become an active part of UNESCO-IHE's mission to manage water and environmental resources in a sustainable manner.
The rector addressed the need for more qualified water professionals to manage complex water issues. Their knowledge is vital in providing solutions to global water challenges in their counties. "Being a student here makes you part of the largest global network of water professionals in the world. You are following in the footsteps of more than 14,800 alumni from over 160 countries. 60% of them are high level water professionals, including 5 ministers" says Professor Szollosi-Nagy.
Cross boundary crime and water
Her Excellency Judge Joyce Aluoch was elected from the African Group of States in 2009 and is assigned to the Trial Division at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Judge Aluoch was a Judge of the High Court of Kenya for over 20 years and was elevated to the Court of Appeal of Kenya in 2007. She has extensive experience in the training of judges and magistrates in the provision of regional and international human rights instruments.
Judge Aluoch was impressed to see so many students that wish to pursue their studies in such an important field. In her speech she touched on the interlinkage of global justice and water. "Violence is an unfortunate aspect of reality. Criminal acts are not restricted to borders, so is water. It is clearer than ever that impunity of crimes has an impact across boundaries. This goes for water too. Moreover, water cuts are used as an instrument of war, this is a crime. The right to water is a human right. The globalisation of international crime justice is always going to affect you. Water is just as much a global issue. I am glad to see you made a choice showing you are willing to work for change" says Judge Aluoch.
Think out of the box
A representative from the Student Association Board (SAB) gave the new batch of students some useful advice. Olivier Tuyishimire from Rwanda shares his experiences with the new students: "When you get back home, you will have a broader mind set. In our professions, in the water sector, we deal with different people, from different fields of expertise. Your opinion will be more valuable as you will have this ability to think out of the box, be able to analyze different perspectives and deal with people from different backgrounds. This is what makes UNESCO-IHE such a great learning experience".
Alumni are everywhere
The opening of the academic year and the Alumni Day were combined since last year with the issuing of the alumni award. The UNESCO-IHE Alumni Award is given to an alumnus/a who is at the height of her or his career and has proven to be a role model for other water professionals by showing an outstanding contribution to water management.
The winner of this year's award is Dr. Dr Tom Okia Okurut from Uganda. He is the Executive Director of the National Environmental Management Authority (MENA) of the Ministry of Water and Environment in Uganda.
In his acceptance speech, Dr. Okurut pointed out the value of studying at UNESCO-IHE. "I will share this secret with you: your life as professionals in water will never be the same after your studies here; this is for sure. The UNESCO-IHE Alumni are everywhere, especially in the developing countries, holding technical and managerial positions in the water business. During the Rio+20 UNCED in 2012, seventeen countries had as part of their technical delegations, UNESCO-IHE Alumni. In Uganda, four of the largest environment and water based institutions are headed by alumni from this insitute".
According to tradition, the opening ceremony was concluded by a reception where the new students could taste traditional Dutch food such as herring, bitterballen and stroopwafels. Good luck to the new batch!