This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at



Click here to the Pioneers page

In 1969, in the introduction to the Annual Report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly on the work of the United Nations, the then Secretary-General, U Thant, suggested that the time had arrived when serious consideration might be given to establishing an international university. He had come to this conclusion because his attention had been drawn to the work being done by individuals to establish institutions of learning with an international character.

An international university, the Secretary-General said, would be devoted to the Charter objectives of peace and progress. It would be staffed with professors from many nations and all parts of the world. The university would thus serve to break down the barriers that created misunderstanding and mistrust between nations and cultures.

The primary aim of an international university, the Secretary-General said, would be to promote international understanding at both the political and cultural levels. The scheme would be a legitimate concern of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which would be responsible for working out the details of the university, selecting a board of trustees, and appointing a scholar of international renown as its head. The university should be located in a country noted for its spirit of tolerance and freedom of thought, the Secretary-General said. He expressed the hope that UNESCO would find it possible to develop the idea further and to bring it to fruition.

On 13 December 1969, the General Assembly welcomed the initiative taken by the Secretary-General concerning the idea of an international university. It invited the Secretary-General to prepare, in cooperation with UNESCO and in consultation with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and any other agency he deemed necessary, and taking into account the views expressed by the Assembly, a comprehensive expert study on the feasibility of an international university. The study would include a clear definition of the goals and objectives of an international university, and recommendations as to how it might be financed. The Assembly expressed the hope that the report on the study would be available early in the International Education Year and in time to be submitted to the General Assembly in 1970 through the Economic and Social Council. The Assembly's decisions were embodied in resolution 2573(XXIV). The resolution was recommended by the Second (Economic and Financial) Committee, which approved it without objection on 4 December 1969.

The UNU was established by the General Assembly on 6 December 1973 to be an international community of scholars engaged in research, advanced training, and the dissemination of knowledge related to the pressing global problems of human survival, development, and welfare. The UNU started activities in 1975 at its headquarters in Tokyo. Its activities focus mainly on peace and conflict resolution, development in a changing world, and science and technology in relation to human welfare. The University operates through a worldwide network of research and postgraduate training centres, with its planning and coordinating headquarters in Tokyo.

Click here for:
          The Pioneers
          UNU Council
          UNU Charter