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FAQ on the UNU

1. Why was the UNU created?

In 1969, following a proposal by the then Secretary-General U Thant, the United Nations recommended that a new type of university be established to promote international scholarly cooperation; undertake problem-oriented, multidisciplinary research on urgent global concerns; and strengthen research and training capacities in developing countries.

2. What are the UNU's main aims and objectives?

The mission of the UNU is to contribute, through research and capacity building, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems that are the concern of the United Nations and its Member States. The UNU aims to fulfil its mission by performing four key roles that are based on the mandate given to the University by its Charter: to be an international community of scholars; to form a bridge between the United Nations and the international academic community; to serve as a think-tank for the United Nations system; and to contribute to capacity building, particularly in developing countries. To help increase the research and training capacities, the UNU's current activities are grouped in two main areas: environment and sustainable development, and peace and governance. In the present homepage, research projects are classified and described under these two areas.

3. How is the UNU organized?

The University consists of the UNU Centre in Tokyo, several research and training centres and programmes (RTC/Ps), and a network of associated and cooperating institutions and scholars. The University Centre in Tokyo is the central programming and coordinating body of the University, designated to assist the Rector, chief academic and administrative officer of the University, in the direction, organization and administration of the overall programme. RTC/Ps are created by the UNU in various parts of the world to focus on specific problems, and links are forged with existing universities, national research centres, and other organizations located mainly in developing countries. All these elements interact in a networking manner. The principles and policies for the University are set by its governing Council.

4. Why was Tokyo selected as the location of the UNU headquarters?

The location of the UNU Headquarters in Tokyo reflects a long-standing Japanese commitment to the goals of the United Nations and the willingness of the Japanese Government to demonstrate this through its investment in the University. In the early 1970s, the Government of Japan pledged US$100 million to establish the University's Endowment Fund. The UNU moved to its permanent headquarters building in the centre of Tokyo in 1992. Adjacent to the headquarters building, on the same premises, is the UNU Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU/IAS), which has since 1996 operated as the most recent research and training centre of the UNU.

5. How is the UNU financed?

The UNU gets no funds from the regular budget of the United Nations. Financial support is entirely by way of voluntary contributions from governments, agencies, foundations and individual donors. The UNU's basic revenue for operating expenses is generated by investment income from its Endowment Fund. The UNU budget for the current biennium (2002-2003) stands at US$73.5 million. Currently, pledges to the Endowment Fund, operating and specific programme contributions made by 58 governments and 214 other benefactors totaled some US$382 million. The University also has benefited from counterpart and other support, including cost-sharing support for the fellowships. Major contributions received during 2001 are described in the Annual Report for the year.

6. Who are the UNU's students?

As an academic institution of the United Nations, the UNU has no student body in the traditional sense. Its students are postgraduate or young postdoctoral researchers, mainly from developing countries, who receive advanced training as UNU Fellows or participate in UNU training courses, seminars and workshops.

7. How can I become a UNU Fellow?

A prospective UNU Fellow cannot apply directly to the UNU for postgraduate training. Fellows are chosen after recommendations from their home institutions, which must be working in an area of concern to the UNU, and candidates must be committed to returning to work at their home institutions. Most fellows are from developing countries. Besides this type of "institutional" fellowships, some UNU research and training centres offer Ph.D. fellowships in their respective areas of priority, which are announced in their homepages for individual applications. The UNU also awards fellowships to selected applicants, mainly from developing countries, for some of its training courses and seminars. Such training activities currently include the Global Seminar series in Japan, the UNU/ILA leadership programme in Amman, and International Courses commenced in Tokyo in February 1999. Detailed information on the UNU fellowships is available here.

8. Where do the staff come from?

The UNU's academic and professional staff at its Tokyo Centre and RTC/Ps are recruited from universities, research institutions, and international organziations, often on secondment for fixed terms. Vacancies for professional staff are advertised in specialized magazines, newspapers, the UN Vacancy Announcement Bulletin, and the UNU website. The support staff are usually recruited locally. The University's academic network personnel generally hold positions at major universities worldwide and remain in their posts while working with UNU programmes. A wide variety of nationalities and cultures are represented.

9. How does the UNU reach opinion leaders and policy makers?

The UNU holds conferences, seminars, and consultative meetings around the world and responds quickly to meet current concerns. Its colloquia and publications address pivotal problems, such as conflict resolution, peace and good governance, development economics, science and technology, and environmental issues. Findings and knowledge gained from UNU's research activities are also provided to opinion leaders and policy makers through its participation in global conferences organized by the United Nations, which have included the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (1992), the World Social Summit in Copenhagen (1995), the World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995), the World Conference on Higher Education in Paris (1998), the Conferences of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

10. How does the UNU disseminate and publicize its work?

The UNU has its own scholarly press that produces academic publications and operates in the production of five professional journals. Work in Progress and UNU Nexions newsletters, annual reports, and several brochures are also issued to report on the ongoing research and developments in the UNU network. The full texts of UNU books and other printed materials are increasingly made available in electronic form, such as CD-ROMs and at the websites of the UNU Press and UNU Update.


Page last modified 2019.04.16.

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