Nov. 8, 2023

UCalgary to be named home of world’s 1st United Nations University Hub focused on water

Initiative will empower communities to adapt to environmental change
UCalgary and UNU leaders meet in Ottawa
From left: Ambassador Alexandra Bugailiskis, Andre Buret, Marjan Eggermont, Tshilidzi Marwala, Kaveh Madani, Martyn Clark. Courtesy Martyn Clark

The University of Calgary will be home to the world’s first United Nations University (UNU) Hub focused on water, underscoring the university’s commitment to address the most pressing problems of our world through collaborative research and education.

The UNU Hub at UCalgary on Empowering Communities to Adapt to Environmental Change is a partnership between UCalgary and the UNU Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), the UN think tank on water based in Hamilton, Ont.

UCalgary will collaborate with UNU-INWEH to develop the scientific understanding, solutions, and skilled workforce required to mitigate and adapt to climate threats that affect ecosystems, economies, personal safety, and ways of life around the world.

”We value UCalgary’s firm commitment to making science and education more accessible and impactful,” says Dr. Kaveh Madani, PhD, director of UNU-INWEH. “I warmly welcome UCalgary’s scientists and students to an inclusive network of global changemakers, determined to tackle the major water, environmental, and health challenges of the 21st century.”

The hub’s research and training activities will address the challenges of environmental change, paired with outreach that centres community and engages the public. It will develop collaborative programs for UCalgary researchers and students seeking opportunities that are impactful and relevant to global practice and policy. The hub’s reach will be global, with outcomes that are accessible and applicable beyond Canada, extending to the Global South.

UNU head office in Tokyo, Japan.

UNU head office in Tokyo, Japan.

Rs1421, Wikimedia Creative Commons

International research collaborations and training for future 'global changemakers'

“The UNU Hub will be part of a global network of excellence that connects our students and researchers directly to the UNU system,” says Dr. Andre Buret, PhD, associate vice-president (research) at UCalgary.

These connections will ensure that they can effectively share their knowledge, resources, and expertise to help address the global water, environmental and health challenges and contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“UCalgary students will learn to tackle urgent challenges in global sustainability and climate change in academic and experiential learning programs that prepare them to become global changemakers,” says Dr. Marjan Eggermont, PhD, associate dean (sustainability) and professor in the Schulich School of Engineering. Opportunities will include interdisciplinary graduate certificates, joint degree programs with UNU-INWEH, UN internships, and international assignments abroad.

The hub will have four research clusters led by world-class scholars from across campus, collaborating to bring their expertise to bear on four essential areas of water studies: understanding changes in aquatic ecosystems, infectious diseases in a changing climate, environmental predictions for water sustainability, and resilience in Indigenous communities.

“The clusters will build on UCalgary’s institutional capacity and infrastructure in these areas, including the cross-institutional UNESCO Chair in Mountain Water Sustainability, One Health at UCalgary, Advancing Canadian Water Assets (ACWA), and the Biogeoscience Institute,” says Dr. Fred Wrona, PhD, UNESCO Chairholder in Mountain Water Sustainability, professor in the Faculty of Science, and member of the UNU Hub’s aquatic ecosystems research cluster.

The research clusters will also create opportunities for new international partnerships and transdisciplinary collaborations to expand the reach of the UNU Hub’s activities.

“One of our goals is to boost the collective capacity of the global research ecosystem to make knowledge accessible to all, particularly to cross the digital and development divide to the Global South,” says Dr. Martyn Clark, PhD, professor in the Schulich School of Engineering, Schulich Chair in Environmental Prediction, and lead of the environmental predictions for water sustainability research cluster.

Institutional culture key to UNU Hub activities

The UNU Hub aligns with UCalgary's Ahead of Tomorrow vision to spark global change and create a prosperous, compassionate, sustainable, and equitable world.

“UCalgary’s thriving innovation ecosystem holds the intellectual and technical capacity that can be leveraged to tackle our most challenging global water and health problems,” says Dr. Alain Pietroniro, PhD, professor in the Schulich School of Engineering and Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Water Systems in a Changing Climate.

“The UNU Hub will empower a community of scholars to work together and effectively mitigate and manage complex changes in our climate, land, and water, and make a real difference in our world.”

The UNU Hub will be launched at an event planned for Dec. 13, 2023 on UCalgary’s main campus.

To learn more about UCalgary’s UNU Hub, contact Joy Mitsogianni at

  • Photo at top: UCalgary and UNU leaders met in Ottawa last week on the new UNU Hub at UCalgary. From left: Ambassador Alexandra Bugailiskis, chair of the UNU-INWEH International Advisory Committee; Dr. Andre Buret, PhD, associate vice-president (research) at UCalgary; Dr. Marjan Eggermont, PhD, associate dean (sustainability) and professor in the Schulich School of Engineering; Dr. Tshilidzi Marwala, UNU rector and under-secretary general of the United Nations; Dr. Kaveh Madani, director of UNU-INWEH; Dr. Martyn Clark, PhD,  professor in the Schulich School of Engineering and Schulich Research Chair in Environmental Prediction.

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