How Unique Is UNU?

By Mushakoji, Kinhide | UN Chronicle, November 1986 | Go to article overview

How Unique Is UNU?

Mushakoji, Kinhide, UN Chronicle

How Unique is UNU?

The Concept

The United Nations University(UNU) was first conceived by Secretary-General U Thant. It was in the late 1960s that he decided that the United Nations system would benefit from having an international university as a member of its family of organizations.

The University Charter, in article 1,states that the institution "shall devote its work to research into dhe pressing global problems of human survival, development and welfare that are the concern of the United Nations and its agencies, with due attention to the social sciences and the humanities as well as natural sciences, pure and applied". U Thant's original vision remained, but the structure of the University was greatly modified following the recommendations of experts consulted by the United Nations and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The UNU today is not a single-campus university but a network of centres and programmes co-ordinated by a Co-ordinating Centre in Tokyo.

The Charter states the Universityshall be "an international community of scholars, engaged in research, post-graduate training and dissemination of knowledge", functioning through a central programming and co-ordinating body and a network of research and post-graduate training centres and programmes located in the developed and developing countries.

Through that network, the Universityplays a catalytic role in the continuing growth of vigorous academic and scientific communities, everywhere and particularly in the developing countries.

The Reality

In its first five years, the Universitydeveloped three research and training programmes on: "World Hunger", "Human and Social Development", and the "Use and Management of Natural Resources".

Additional themes were subsequentlyadded: "Peace, Security, Conflict Resolution and Global Transformation"; "The Global economy"; "Hunger, Poverty, Resources and the Environment"; "Human and Social Development and the Co-existence of Peoples, Cultures and Social Systems"; and "Science and Technology and Their Social and Ethical Implications".

The World Institute on DevelopmentEconomics Research was stablished by the University in Helsinki as its first research and training centre.

The University is neither a fundingagent, like a foundation, nor a "think tank" conducting commissioned research, but a world community of scholars. Within UNU networks, researchers and research institutions of different regions, cultures, and schools of thought continually interact. This global pluralism, rooted in the study of national and local realities, gives to a world community of scholars the possibility of examining the pressing global problems of concern to the United Nations, with due respect to local-specific approaches in the analysis.

The guarantee of academic freedomgiven to the University permits cross-national research to be developed without the political constraint of other United Nations bodies. Thus, the University also serves as a cross-national forum for joint research and dialogue among researchers of different regions.

The University's Medium-TermPerspective 1982-1987 refers to the "global debate", a process within which UNU is expected to play a catalytic role. In light of the fragmentation of the world into geopolitical, economic, ideological alignments and cultural spheres, and the fragmentation of the world-wide academic and scientific community along these lines, it is necessary to intensify and widen the transnational dialogue across these gaps in order to promote international understanding and co-operation.

The University's participation in theglobal debate, through its Regional and Global Studies Division, is essential to its capacity to contribute to the understanding of global problems from a shared sense of human solidarity and interdependence, taking into account the many different and valid perspectives and perceptions of people on those problems in various parts of the world. …

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