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Alicia Bárcena is Awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the National Autonomous University of Mexico

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26 September 2019|Press Release

In her speech, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary called for forging alternative paths and societal projects in which citizens are the subject, not just the object, of transformations that improve their conditions.


Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC's Executive Secretary.
Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC's Executive Secretary, during the investiture ceremony held in Mexico City.
Photo: ECLAC.

The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, was bestowed the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) for “her broad and relevant professional and academic trajectory, and her contribution to strengthening the construction of Mexico and other countries.”

In the investiture ceremony – led by Rector Enrique Graue and the Secretary-General of this institution of higher learning, Leonardo Lomelí – the senior United Nations official indicated that the honorary degree “challenges us and encourages us to give our very best and inspire others to do the same, as representatives of this University.”

In her speech, which she gave on behalf of the awardees, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary affirmed that “forging alternative paths, societal projects in which citizens are the subject and not just the object of the transformations that improve their conditions, making public policy a tool for collective development and making equality a shared objective is the dream that we aspire to and that finds one of its most fertile sources here, at the UNAM.”

She added that this is an urgent task in a fragmented world where patriotism is pitted against globalism, and where multilateralism is in its worst moment.

“In the current context, when scientific evidence regarding the urgency to act on climate change is being questioned, when the expectation for greater equality among countries is being frustrated, when the promise of more and better global public goods conflicts with individualist positions, and when it is clear that in this world we live in, political institutions are not governing the central driving forces of economic performance and these are in the hands of a select few, this becomes fertile ground for old and new threats such as offensive nationalism and xenophobia,” she warned.

She added that tackling these challenges requires deep understanding, willingness and ideas. “It demands that institutions such as this one give their very best to illuminate different pathways,” she indicated.

Alicia Bárcena stressed that ECLAC, which she has led since 2008, is an authentically Latin American and Caribbean voice, and she underscored that its institutional history has intersected with the ups and downs in the history of the Americas.

“Our work has been to provide the governments and peoples of the region, with respect for their sovereign autonomy, the pertinent, timely, rigorous and committed support needed to build a development project with a clear horizon: equalizing to grow and growing to equalize,” she sustained.

Along with Alicia Bárcena, the others awarded an honorary doctorate were the biologist and scholar Julia Carabias; the economist Rolando Cordera Campos; the mathematician José Antonio de la Peña Mena; the geologist and geophysicist Donald Bruce Dingwell; the sociologist of law Vincenzo Ferrari; the filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu; the psychologist María Elena Medina-Mora; the engineer Roberto Meli Piralla; and the astronomer Sandra Moore Faber.

The UNAM’s Rector, Enrique Graue, lauded these distinguished professionals and indicated that “we not only recognize a series of figures who, due to their dedication, contributions and academic value, have left an indelible mark on our community. Our doctors Honoris Causa have fought to improve the societies they form part of and have contributed to the well-being of humankind.”

He emphasized that science and art, and those dedicated to them, cannot be considered elitist.

“Their work implies an arduous life effort in the constant search for and dissemination of the truth,” he said.

The list of personalities granted honorary doctorates by the National Autonomous University of Mexico, founded in 1910, includes Justo Sierra, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Alfonso Caso, Alfonso Reyes, José Vasconcelos, Levi-Strauss, Juan Rulfo, Carlos Fuentes, Alain Touraine and Noam Chomsky, among others.