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Bright young minds, renowned thought leaders take aim at global problems

Northeastern University hosted an international conference on Friday and Saturday aimed at solving global challenges ranging from gender equality to extreme poverty.

The fifth annual Millennium Campus Conference convened world-renowned speakers and more than 1,000 college students from the United States and developing countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

Each year the conference focuses on addressing the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, eight objectives that U.N. members pledged in 2000 to achieve by 2015. These goals include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; promoting gender equality; and combating HIV/​AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. This year’s conference emphasized the importance of partnering with communities in order to foster global economic development.

In his keynote address Saturday morning, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, noted that the development goals have accomplished a great deal, including cutting extreme poverty in half.

“There has been a tremendous amount of progress,” Sachs said. “The Millennium Development Goals helped to draw attention, to focus policy, to engage young leaders, and to open the eyes of communities that poverty is not a matter of fate or acceptance, but something that can and needs to be changed.”

Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance at the U.S Agency of International Development, delivers her keynote address. Photo by Mariah Tauger.

Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance at the U.S Agency of International Development, delivers her keynote address. Photo by Mariah Tauger.

Along with Sachs, other renowned experts who delivered keynote addresses included: Nancy Lindborg, of the U.S Agency of International Development; Peace Corps acting director Carrie Hessler-Radelet; international business leader and social activist Kenneth Cole, chairman and chief creative officer of Kenneth Cole Productions who served as Northeastern’s commencement speaker in 2009; Ahmad Alhendawi, the U.N. Secretary General’ s Envoy on Youth; social entrepreneur Tiburce Chaffa; and Sakena Yacoobi, executive director of the Afghan Institute of Learning.

The conference is run by the Millennium Campus Network, a Boston-based nonprofit organization comprising student groups on campuses in Boston, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C. Northeastern hosted the MCC last year and is the first university to repeat as host of the conference, which began in 2008.

In a welcome video played Friday evening, Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun acknowledged the hard work of the Northeastern student-leaders who helped organize the conference. “It speaks volumes of their commitment to your global causes,” Aoun said.

The conference aligns with Northeastern’s focus on conducting research that helps solve global challenges in health, security, and sustainability, particularly through its commitment to experiential education through which students work, study, and conduct research in 114 countries worldwide.

Fifth-year student Nada Eweiss, a combined international affairs and economics major at Northeastern, delivered a keynote address Friday evening. The Egypt native, who is an intern at MCN, said NGOs need to communicate better with the communities they are assisting.

Eweiss got involved with MCN after attending last year’s conference. Of the eight Millennium Developmental Goals, she is particularly interested in helping to eradicate extreme poverty. She saw the impact extreme poverty could have on people during the Arab Spring in Egypt, which she experienced firsthand.

“That was a changing point in my life,” said Eweiss, who lived about 20 minutes from Tahrir Square. “I saw things through a very different lens. I saw how so much suffering is going on and how extreme poverty has been an instigator to express anger.”

Many Northeastern faculty members spoke at the conference’s workshops. For example, international affairs professor Denise Horn discussed modern day slavery, and African-American studies associate professor Kwamina Panford explained how the perception of Africa differs from its reality.