UNU System

The United Nations University (UN University), strives to generate and share knowledge and to strengthen capacities relevant to the promotion of human security, peace and sustainable development, in particular in developing countries. The first activities of the University started in 1975, after the UN General Assembly had authorized the creation of the UN University in 1972.



UNESCO Bookshop

UNU Press books on sale at the UNESCO bookshop. Photo: Tiziana Scaramagli/UNU

2011.11.01 • An agreement was signed between UNU Press and the UNESCO Publications Unit at the end of 2010 to sell a selection of UNU Press titles at the UNESCO bookshop. Following the successful sales of the first three books - Diasporas in Conflict: Peacemakers or Peace Wreckers, edited by Hazel Smith and Paul Stares; World Religions and Norms of War, edited buy Vesselin Popovski, Gregory Reichberg and Nicholas Turner (sold out); and Usable Thoughts: Climate, Water and Weather in the Twenty-first Century, by Michael Glantz and Qian Ye - the UNESCO Bookshop has added the following ten titles, to coincide with the opening of the General Conference:

"Building Trust in Government: Innovations in Governance Reform in Asia", edited by G. Shabbir Cheema and Vesselin Popovski (launched by UNU-OP at UNESCO in October 2010), seeks to answer many of the questions raised by the declining trust in the ability of governments and the global community to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, ensure security and promote adherence to basic standards of human rights.

"Engaging Civil Society: Emerging Trends in Democratic Governance", edited by G. Shabbir Cheema and Vesselin Popovski (launched by UNU-OP at UNESCO in October 2010), examines the rapid pace of globalization that has led to the increasing interdependence of member States of the United Nations to achieve sustainable development objectives, and the changing roles of civil society in global and national governance.

"Cross-Border Governance in Asia: Regional Issues and Mechanisms", edited by G. Shabbir Cheema, Christopher McNally and Vesselin Popovski (the third book in the series on Trends and Innovations in Governance), discusses regional governance mechanisms and institutional arrangements to respond to emerging cross-border issues and trends in Asia and the Pacific.

"The Future of International Environmental Law", edited by David Leary and Balakrishna Pisupati, explores the future of international environmental law in a world of ever worsening environmental crises. It tackles current environmental challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution and overfishing of the oceans.

"Political Violence in South and Southeast Asia: Critical Perspectives", edited by Itty Abraham, Edward Newman and Meredith Weiss, investigates the sources and manifestations of political violence in South and Southeast Asia and the roles it plays in everyday life, focusing on the social and political context of these regions.

"Blood and Borders: The Responsibility of Protect and the Problem of the Kin-State", edited by Walter Kemp, Vesselin Popovski and Ramesh Thakur. According to this book, map lines delineating statehood can become blurred by bloodlines of nationhood, and inter-ethnic conflict and genocide have demonstrated the dangers of failing to protect people targeted by fellow citizens. The authors suggest that a sensible answer to the kin state dilemma might come from the formula "neither intervention nor indifference" that recognizes special bonds but proscribes armed intervention based on ties of kinship.

"The Dark Side of Globalization", edited b y Jorge Heine and Ramesh Thakur, examines the benefits of globalization as well as its dark side, from the reduction of poverty to the unleashing of negative forces, such as transnational terrorism, drug and human trafficking, organized crime, money laundering and global pandemics.

"Realizing the Development Potential of Diasporas", edited by Krishnan Sharma, Arun Kashyap, Manuel Montes and Paul Ladd, sheds light on how the growing population of expatriates from the developing world can be effectively leveraged to promote development in their homelands.

"Fixing Haiti: MINUSTAH and Beyond", edited by Jorge Heine and Andrew Thompson, examines the challenges faced by Haiti, the tasks undertaken by the UN and the new role of hemispheric players, such as Argentina, Brazil and Chile, as well as Canada, France and the US.

"Keeping Watch: Monitoring Technology and Innovation in UN Peace Operations", by Walter Dorn, explains how technologies can increase the range, effectiveness and accuracy of UN observation, identifies the problems and pitfalls of modern technologies and the challenges of incorporating them in the UN system, and shows how technological innovation can serve as a complement to human initiative in the quest for peace.

UN Day

Building a Global Constituency for the UN via Public Information

Luk Van Langenhove at UN day in Paris. Photo: Tiziana Scaramagli

2011.10.24 • The United Nations University Office in Paris (UNU-OP), in collaboration with the United Nations Regional Information Centre (UNRIC) and the Académie Diplomatique Internationale (ADI) in Paris, organized an event on 24 October to celebrate UN Day, on the theme of "Building a Global Constituency for the UN through Public Information". The participants were Timothy Ryback, Deputy Secretary-General of ADI, Jean-Pierre Bugada, Chief of Communication for France and Monaco of the UN Regional Information Centre in Brussels, Luk Van Langenhove, Director of UNU-OP, Cécile Molinier, Director of the UNDP Office in Geneva, Jacques Rao, Director of the UNESCO Division of Relations with Members and International Organizations, and Solange Montillaud-Joyel, Responsible for communication at the UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics in Paris. The proceedings were in French and was attended by members of the UN family and NGOs, diplomats, officials from UNESCO and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, journalists and students.

Timothy Ryback, the Deputy Secretary-General of ADI, opened the session by welcoming participants and presenting the Académie Diplomatique Internationale, an independent and neutral institution dedicated to promoting modern diplomacy and contributing to the understanding and analysis of the emerging dynamics in international affairs. It was founded in the 1920s, along with the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, as one of the first institutes devoted to the sustained exploration of world affairs.

Jean-Pierre Bugada introduced the importance of UN Day as a means of consolidating the UN system and promoting its goals, and referred to the UN Secretary-General's message. In opening the debate, he said that the challenge for the UN system today was to adapt to new information technologies, which were excellent communication tools but risked leading to disinformation if badly handled.

The next speaker, Luk Van Langenhove, declared that the United Nations University, as the academic arm of the UN, has a unique role to play in promoting the objectives of the UN by generating and sharing knowledge across borders, and strengthening capacities to promote human security and development. One of its priorities is to foster cooperation and partnerships, improve communication, and consolidate relations with the UN and other international organizations. He pointed that since international organizations, unlike nations, did not have their own constituencies, the challenge they faced was precisely to create their own constituencies so as to acquire democratic legitimacy, through a process of talking and listening to all sectors of society, such as industries, civil society, trade unions, youth, but also scientists. The role and work of the United Nations University is therefore vital, as it serves as a bridge between the UN and the global community of scientists and as an ideal forum for a globalised and knowledge-intensive world.

Cécile Molinier took the floor to share the communication and coordination experience of her organization, which frequently acts as the voice of the UN in the field. She stressed the importance of all international organizations "to deliver as one". A step in this direction was the creation of a UN Development Group, composed of 33 agencies and programmes, to ensure that the UN family was united not only in action but also in communication on the Millennium Development Goals.

Jacques Rao then presented his organization's strategy on communication based on innovative methods designed specifically for the diplomatic community and the general public. At global level, it focused on the defense of information, freedom of expression and protection of journalists.

Solange Montillaud-Joyel concluded the session by pointing out that the Environment and Climate Change were unifying issues that involved all international organizations, as well as the general public. She referred to UNEP's participation in the International Year of Forests as an example of its contribution to a global UN activity.


Research Project

Sustainable Management of Marginal Drylands (SUMAMAD)

As part of its mandate to foster cooperation between UNESCO and UNU, the United Nations University Office in Paris recently focused on joint activities with the UNESCO Natural Sciences Sector. This initiative started in June 2011 with Jacob Tarkowski, an intern with experience at INWEH, who worked on developing promotional documentation for a joint UNU-INWEH/UNESCO flagship project on sustainable Management of Marginal Drylands (SUMAMAD) for dissemination at conferences and workshops. His work demonstrates UNU-OP's role as a bridge between UNESCO and the United Nations University Centre and Institutes. The Office plans to continue its collaboration with the UNESCO Natural Sciences Sector.

SUMAMAD is an international research project with the objective to enhance the sustainable management and conservation of marginal drylands in Africa, Arab States, Asia and Latin America. It has project sites in nine countries: Bolivia, Burkina Faso, China, Egypt, India, I.R. Iran, Jordan, Pakistan and Tunisia. The project, now in its second phase (2009-2013), focuses on building the capacity of dryland researchers to transfer their scientific findings for use both by local communities and by policy-level decision-makers. It draws on North-South-South cooperation, which allows for transfer of knowledge and resources across its nine study sites. Specific activities in Phase 2 include: (1) fostering scientific drylands research; (2) preparing policy-relevant guidelines for decision-making; and, (3) promoting sustainable livelihoods in drylands.

This project recognizes the need to address the worsening conditions in the world's drylands. In fact, these drylands occupy 41% of the earth's land area and are home to more than 2 billion people – a third of the human population in the year 2000; 10 – 20% of the drylands are already degraded (MA, 2005). These numbers are expected to rise due to the current trend in climate change. Thus, a number of SUMAMAD sites have already begun to propose management plans for dealing with the impacts of climate change through adaptation and mitigation policies. This is supported by various research programmes on climate relationships, as well as consultations with local populations to find a solution tailored to the needs of all the stakeholders involved. An emphasis on alternative income-generating activities is also further reducing stress on resources and providing coping mechanisms for local populations.

This showcase of UNU/UNESCO collaboration is the first of more to come. The UNU-OP mandate to highlight joint activities between UNESCO and the UNU system is aimed at stimulating further initiatives of this nature.

Reference: MA (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment) (2005). Ecosystem Services and Human Well-Being, Desertification Synthesis. World Resources Institute, Washington D.C. - Washington, DC, USA: Global Environment Facility.


UNU-INWEH meeting held in Paris

2011.03.23-24 • The Scientific Synthesis Group for the GEF IW:Science Project held their second and final working meeting to finalize the scientific synthesis from over US$6 billion in
GEF International Waters Projects. Now in the final months of the 2.5 year project, the group stands on the shoulders of the work of 75 scientists from over 40 countries who volunteered their time to review over 180 transboundary water projects encompassing 170 countries during the last 20 years.

Looking at river basins, lakes, groundwater aquifers, large marine ecosystems and the open ocean the thematically-orientated work of the scientists in these areas is now being synthesized into science and experience based findings that span freshwater and marine realms. These findings will serve to assist the GEF with ongoing investment in the management of transboundary water systems around the world and to share the outcomes of the GEF with the broader water community.

The IW:Science project is a GEF project executed by UNU-INWEH and implemented by UNEP. The meeting was generously hosted by the UNU Office at UNESCO, Paris.

UNU Postgraduate Programme

Applications Invited for UNU-ISP 2011 M.Sc. Programme

The UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace is now accepting applications for its Master of Science in Sustainability, Development, and Peace programme, which starts in September 2011 in Tokyo. For more information, please visit the UNU-ISP Master's Degree programme website.


UNESCO Director-General Speaks at UNU

UNESCO's Role in Climate Change and Education

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova delivers a lecture at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo. Photo: Curtis Christophersen/UNU

2010.12.01 • During her first official visit to Japan, Ms. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, delivered the keynote address at a UNU Public Symposium on "Climate Change and Education: UNESCO's Role in the 2010s". In her presentation at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo, Ms. Bokova provided an overview on UNESCO's new initiatives through which the organization supports research in such areas as advancing knowledge about climate change, preserving biodiversity, coping with social aspects of climate change and minimizing disaster risks.

Ms. Bokova' s presentation focused on the importance of developing further educational activities in areas that are particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. She expressed UNESCO's commitment to further its work by expanding the role of the UNESCO Chairs and other initiatives.

Ms. Bokova also answered questions from members of the audience on such topics as cultural heritage, the role of youth and UNESCO's activities.

After Ms. Bokova's lecture, there were presentations by Won Jung Byun, chief coordinator of the Regional Centre of Expertise on ESD Tongyeong, Republic of Korea, and by Hirofumi Abe, Dean of the Graduate School of Environmental Science, Okayama University. These were followed by a lively discussion, chaired by UNU Vice-Rector Kazuhiko Takeuchi.

Later in the day, Ms. Bokova attended a meeting with the heads of the UN agencies based in Japan. At that meeting, Ms. Bokova and UNU Rector Konrad Osterwalder signed an agreement establishing a new UNESCO-UNU Chair in Regional Integration, Migration and Free Movement of People. This Chair will be based at the UNU Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS) in Bruges, Belgium.

Symposium webcast

Text of Ms. Bokova's lecture

UNESCO-UNU Chair on Regional Integration, Migration and Free Movement of People

Signing ceremony with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, UNU Rector Konrad Osterwalder, UNU-CRIS Director Luk Van Langenhove at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo. Photo: Curtis Christophersen/UNU

2010.11.26 • On 26th November 2010 the agreement for the establishment of the 'UNESCO-UNU Chair on regional integration, migration and free movement of people' was signed by the Rector of the United Nations University, Professor Konrad Osterwalder, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mrs. Irina Bokova, and the Director of the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies, Mr. Luk Van Langenhove.

The UNESCO-UNU Chair will start its activities in 2011, and will be located at UNU-CRIS in Bruges in cooperation with the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

The objective of the UNESCO-UNU Chair is to creatively address the opportunities and challenges of regional integration, the social dimension of regional integration, migration and in particular free movement of people within South Africa and the Southern African region.

The collaboration between the different partnerships and networks will produce a set of orientation guidelines for local representatives highlighting the main problems that have to be addressed with regard free movement of people and the effective responses that may be implemented in different contexts.

Bringing academics, governments, regional organisations, NGO's and private organisations together, the UNESCO-UNU Chair will serve as a think tank and bridge builder, sharing its expertise to contribute through research, training and capacity building with the aim of making free movement of people tangible in the Southern African region, decreasing contentious debates and having an open problem-solving communication.

World Science Day for Peace and Development

2010.11.04 • UNESCO celebrated the World Science Day for Peace and Development on 10 November 2010 with the launch by Mrs. Irina Bokova, the Director-General, of the Science Report 2010. Five out of the thirty-five authors - Professor Luc Soete, Director of UNU-MERIT*, Dr. Moneef Zou'bi, Director-General of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences, Dr. Ousmane Kane, former Executive Director of the African Regional Centre for Technology, Professor Sunil Mani, Planning Commission Chair, Centre for Development Studies, India, and Professor Hernan Chaimovich, Chief Executive Officer of the Butantan Foundation in Brazil - were invited to present their findings.

Professor Soete co-authored the first chapter, entitled "The growing role of knowledge in the global economy", presenting a global overview of the main developments and trends in scientific research, innovation and higher education since the previous report, published in 2005. Subsequent chapters focus on regional perspectives, interspersed by several national chapters.

* UNU-MERIT is a joint research and training centre of United Nations University (UNU) and Maastricht University, The Netherlands. UNU-MERIT provides insights into the social, political and economic factors that drive technological change and innovation. The Centre's research and training programmes address a broad range of policy questions relating to the national and international governance of science, technology and innovation, with a particular focus on the creation, diffusion and access to knowledge.

185th Session of the UNESCO Executive Board

Executive board. Photo: UNESCO

During the discussions of the autumn 2010 session of the Executive Board, mention was made of UNU-MERIT in the context of the analysis and implications for UNESCO of scientific programmes and initiatives within the United Nations system. As a result of requests from numerous countries for "assistance with the review or reformulation of their science, technology and innovation (STI) policies, UNESCO is planning joint activities with UNECA and specialized agencies such as UNIDO, WIPO and UNU-MERIT to assist these countries with their STI policy reviews. These agencies will contribute to the specialized aspects of the STI policy, such as university-industry transfer and intellectual property."

The UNU was also mentioned as an important stakeholder for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. UNESCO would like to build and apply ESD-related knowledge in cooperation with UNU within the framework of Regional Centres of Excellence. During the discussion on the 1983 Regional Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees in Higher Education in Asia and the Pacific, it was announced that a conference will be organized and observers invited from UN organizations, including UNU.

184th Session of the UNESCO Executive Board

Trends and Innovations in Governance

Two UNU Books Launched at UNESCO

On the panel at the book launch (from left): Sol Iglesias, Vesselin Popvski, Irina Bokova, Luk Van Langenhove, and Lidia Brito. Photo: UNESCO/Andrew Wheeler

2010.10.04 • UNU's Office in Paris (UNU-OP) and UNESCO held an event to launch the UNU Press books Engaging Civil Society: Emerging Trends in Democratic Governance and Building Trust in Government: Innovations in Governance Reform in Asia. These books, part of the "Trends and Innovations in Governance" series, result from collaborative research conducted by the UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP) and the East-West Center, University of Hawaii.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova opened the event and acknowledged the contribution of the two books to the essential debate on the kind of governance necessary to ensure globalization is more just, democratic and inclusive. Ms. Bokova reaffirmed the importance of collaboration between UNU and UNESCO as natural partners in building bridges between academia, policy makers, civil society and the private sector. She stressed the importance of the creation of UNU-UNESCO Chairs worldwide to serve this purpose. Ms. Bokova congratulated UNU for its advanced policy relevant research and for developing post-graduate degree programmes.

The two UNU books were introduced by Vesselin Popovski, their co-editor and Head of the Peace and Security Section of UNU-ISP. Other speakers included Luk Van Langenhove, Representative of UNU-OP; Lidia Brito, Director of the Division of Science Policy and Sustainable Development, UNESCO; and Sol Iglesias, Director of the Asia Europe Foundation, Singapore.

Contributors to the book series "Trends and Innovations in Governance" include leading scholars on governance, political science and Asia studies. Engaging Civil Society examines the changing roles of civil society in global and national governance, and identifies factors that influence the effectiveness of civil society in promoting democratic governance. Building Trust in Government examines the sources and elements of trust in government, discusses factors that lead to decline or growth of trust, and presents ways to reform the policy process to ensure that governance is truly representative and participatory.

The series will continue with a third title, Cross-Border Governance in Asia: Regional Issues and Mechanisms.

Address by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO (pdf)

UNESCO Science Report - 1st Chapter

"60 Minutes" meeting

Briefing Session Introduces UNU to UNESCO

Luk Van Langenhove

2010.07.01 •The "60 Minutes" meeting, an internal communication meeting organized regularly by UNESCO, held on 29 June, was devoted to the United Nations University. The purpose of this open forum is to inform staff and members of permanent delegations about a wide range of themes, covering all sectors, field offices and institutes of the organization.

The session on 29 June, the last in the 2009/2010 cycle, was organized by UNESCO and the UNU Office in Paris to highlight the importance of past, current and future UNU-UNESCO cooperation.

From left: Fabrice Renaud, UNU-EHS; Sue Williams, UNESCO Office of Public Information; Luk Van Langenhove, UNU-CRIS and the representative in Paris; and Reza Ardakanian, UNU Vice-Rectorate in Europe.

The session was opened by Susan Williams, Chief of the Media Section, Bureau of Public Information, after which Luk Van Langenhove, UNU's Representative at UNESCO, made a general introduction of UNU, its mission and activities. This was followed by presentations on the UN-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development (UNW-DPC) by Reza Ardakanian, and the UNU Institute for Environment and Health Security (UNU-EHS) by Fabrice Renaud. The last part of the session was devoted to questions and answers. Information material on UNU, CRIS, EHS and UN-Water was distributed to participants. In view of the success of this event, it is hoped to organize a second 60 Minutes session on a more specific theme later in the year.

Second Policy Brief launch

International Governance of Knowledge Creation and Diffusion

2010.06.17 • A second Policy Brief launch took place on 15 June on the theme of "The International Governance of Knowledge Creation and Diffusion". Two of the authors, Helge Hveem (Department of Political Science and the Centre on Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo) and Lelio Lapadre (University of L'Aquila, John Hopkins University, SAIS Bologna Center and UNU-CRIS), as well as Dirk Van Damme (Head of the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation at OECD), Eliza Patterson (GARNET Network Programme Manager) and Luk Van Langenhove (UNU Representative at UNESCO) participated in the event, which was followed by a cocktail hosted by Sciences Po. These Policy Brief launches are part of a campaign to heighten the visibility of UNU in Paris.

Mid-point Meeting

UNU-INWEH/UNEP International Waters Project

2010.04.10 • The Mid-point Meeting of the Steering Committee for the IW:Science project was held at UNESCO, Paris on 8 and 9 April 2010. The structure of the meeting served to allow the SC to review the activities undertaken thus far, propose guidance where required and reach consensus on any necessary adjustments or changes within the project.

Following a brief overview of the corporate and user needs of the meeting the progress to date was presented by the Executing Agency (EA), UNU-INWEH. Reports from each of the Working Groups were shared and their progress and problems encountered discussed with the two Implementing Agencies present (UNEP and UNDP), GEF and Project Partners. The mid-point of the project also provided an opportunity to review and revise M&E aspects of the project as required. These were: project timeline, project budget, identified risks and the project rubric for Terminal Evaluation purposes. An in-depth debate on the future directions and sustainability of the IW:Science project was held.

Project Info

All GEF International Waters projects are informed to some extent by science in order to understand the complex interface of the environment and human activity to then help realize the objectives of a mosaic of regional and international water agreements. With over $ US 5 billion of GEF and co-financing funds invested in the IW portfolio to date, this significant investment includes a large and valuable resource of scientific knowledge covering an exceptionally broad spectrum of systems – from lake and river basins to groundwater aquifers to coastal and open ocean ecosystems.

The UNEP Implemented and UNU-INWEH Executed GEF project ‘Enhancing the use of Science in International Waters projects to improve project results' is designed to recognize, capture, analyze and integrate the scientific findings from the broad range of IW projects and to disseminate them across the IW portfolio and beyond.

The project partners, in concert with ca. 75 world class scientific experts and key GEF project scientists (15 specialists in each of the 5 IW System Type Working Groups) will systematically inventory, collate, analyze and synthesize the science experience within the IW project portfolio, then undertake a comparative review of the science outcomes and modes of scientific engagement. This will allow portfolio-wide integration of knowledge and subsequent formulation of science-based recommendations regarding critical emerging science areas, the application of science for adaptive management, and the development and use of indicators to support results-based project management.

184th Session of UNESCO Executive Board Concludes

2010.04.16 • The 184th session of the UNESCO Executive Board was held from 30 March to 15 April. The Director-General presented the reports of the Council of the United Nations University covering the years 2008 and 2009, and her comments thereon. In the absence of the Rector, the Director of the Paris Office, Luk Van Langenhove, in his capacity as the UNU Representative at UNESCO, made a presentation on Friday, 9 April, which was followed by a lengthy debate with comments by members of the Executive Board representing 21 countries.

The Executive Board recognized the key role of the UNU as a bridge between the international academic community and the United Nations, as well as the excellent quality of the relationship that has developed between UNU and UNESCO over the years. It expressed its satisfaction at the development of the programme and activities of the United Nations University, and its appreciation of the increased active participation of the United Nations University in the programmes and activities of UNESCO, particularly the UNESCO-UNU Chairs and UNITWIN programme and the world conferences on higher education, science and sustainable development. It stressed the need for continued collaboration between UNESCO and UNU on areas of joint expertise and capacity.

It invited UNU to pursue the implementation of the concept of "twin institutes", in particular in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific and Arab States by encouraging cooperation between UNU and category 2 centres and with other centres and universities in these regions in the fields of research and capacity-building.


Page last modified 2013.06.06.

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