June 3, 2011
Dept of Social Work, Amritapuri
The First Annual International Conference on Society, Technology and Sustainable Development, ICSTSD 2011, organized by the Department of Social Work at Amritapuri in collaboration with the School of Social Work, State University of New York, Buffalo, was inaugurated on June 3, 2011 at the Health Sciences campus in Kochi.
The interdisciplinary conference has knowledge partnership with UNESCO India, the Center for Sustainable and Responsible Organizations, Deakin University and the Society for Energy, Engineers and Managers (SEEM).
“An important objective of the conference is to develop a fruitful partnership between various institutions and actors, with the intention to promote greater awareness and interest in matters related to sustainable development,” stated Dr. Sunil D. Santha, Chairperson of the Department of Social Work, Amritapuri.
International participants arrived from Malaysia (Universiti Tun Hussein Onn), Australia (Deakin University), Bangladesh (University of Asia-Pacific), South Africa (University of Johannesburg), Australia (Swineburne University of Technology) as well as United States (Saint Ambrose University and State University of New York, Buffalo).
National level participants represent institutes of excellence such as IITs, NITs, TISS , JNU, etc.
Dr. Balakrishnan Shankar, Associate Dean, Amritapuri, welcomed the participants, and highlighted the longstanding collaboration between SUNY Buffalo and Amrita.
“This is a relationship we really cherish,” he said.
Elaborating on Amrita’s mission, he stated, “Technology for transformation is our mantra. Sustainability is something we are extremely interested in. We want technology to solve the common man’s problems.”
In his inaugural address, Chief Guest, Dr. M. K. Muneer, Minister for Panchayats, Social Welfare and Kerala Institute of Local Administration, Govt of Kerala, shared a personal experience.
A diabetic patient, he was the first person in Kerala to avail the services of an insulin pump, quite a few years ago. Due to its high cost, this life-saving device is not accessible by the average citizen.
Mentioning Amrita’s initiative to develop a new generation of high quality and low-cost insulin pumps, he stated, “Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, the Chancellor of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, always equates inventions with helping the poor.”
In his presidential address, Br. Dr. Shankara Chaitanya, Medical Director, Amrita School of Ayurveda, reminded the audience that only if dharma is maintained in society, defined as that by which one attains happiness in this and the next worlds, and not abandoned for the sake of instant comfort, can sustainable development be achieved.
Dr. Shantikumar Nair, Dean-Research, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, and recipient of the prestigious National Research Award 2011, in his key-note speech, provided an overview of the potential of nanotechnology in helping solve the most pressing problems of humanity, as defined by the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Dr. Nava Subramanian, Director, Center for Sustainable and Responsible Organisations from Deakin University, Australia, one of the conference’s knowledge partners, spoke next. “We consider Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham to be one of the thought leaders in the area of sustainable development,” she said. “There is an enormous potential for it to become a global champion in this area.”
Over the next three days, delegates will have the opportunity to learn from academicians, administrators, policy makers, representatives from the corporate world and social activists about the challenges and best practices in sustainable development.
An issue that will receive extra attention at the conference is finding ways to effectively integrate indigenous knowledge and practices with present-day policies and technology.
Several paper presentations will also address an important but often neglected area in discussions on sustainable development, the linkage between spirituality, ethics and sustainable development.