United Nations University
Other name
TypeResearch university, think tank
EstablishedDecember 1972; 51 years ago (1972-12)
FounderUnited Nations General Assembly
AffiliationUnited Nations
BudgetUS$124.8 million (2022–2023)[1]
RectorTshilidzi Marwala
Students315 (2021)[2]
Postgraduates225 (2021)[2]
90 (2021)[2]

35°39′45″N 139°42′30″E / 35.66237°N 139.70836°E / 35.66237; 139.70836
icon Politics portal
United Nations University in Tokyo
Entrance to the University building

The United Nations University (国際連合大学, Kokusai Rengō Daigaku) (UNU) is the think tank and academic arm of the United Nations.[3] Headquartered in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan, with diplomatic status as a UN institution, its mission is to help resolve global issues related to human development and welfare through collaborative research and education.

In 1969, UN Secretary-General U Thant proposed "the establishment of a United Nations university, truly international and devoted to the Charter objectives of peace and progress".[4] Following three annual sessions discussing the matter, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) approved the founding of the United Nations University in December 1972. Tokyo was chosen as the main location due to the Japanese government's commitment to provide facilities and $100 million to the UNU endowment fund. The United Nations University was formally inaugurated in January 1975 as the world's first international university.

Since 2010, UNU has been authorized by the UNGA to grant postgraduate degrees, offering several master's and doctoral programs. The university's research officially priorities three thematic areas: peace and governance; global development and inclusion; and environment, climate and energy. UNU also facilitates the UN's engagement with academic institutions and policymakers around the world, in part through campuses, programmes, and affiliated institutes spanning twelve countries.

Organisation and leadership

The university is headed by a rector, who holds the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.

To date, there have been seven Rectors at UNU. The current Rector is Professor Tshilidzi Marwala of South Africa, who took over the role on 1 March 2023.[5] Marwala succeeded David M. Malone of Canada, a two-term Rector who had been serving since 2013.[6]

List of rectors

# Rector Took office Left office
1 James McNaughton Hester 11 November 1974 10 April 1980
2 Soedjatmoko 10 April 1980 30 March 1987
3 Heitor Gurgulino de Souza 30 March 1987 1 September 1997
4 Hans van Ginkel 1 September 1997 1 September 2007
5 Konrad Osterwalder 1 September 2007 28 February 2013
6 David M. Malone 1 March 2013 28 February 2023
7 Tshilidzi Marwala 1 March 2023 Incumbent

The Council of UNU[7] is the governing board of the University and is composed of 12 members[8] who are appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations with the concurrence of the Director-General of UNESCO.[9]


The University was formally established in 1972 and began its activities in 1975 following the signature of the permanent headquarters agreement between the United Nations and Japan.[10] The creation of the United Nations University was set in motion by Secretary-General U Thant in 1969.[11]

UNU Institutes and Vice-Rectorate

Over the years, several Institutes of UNU were created to help with the research initiatives of the United Nations. Most notably, in 2007, a vice-rectorate was established in Bonn (UNU-ViE), Germany, as a way of strengthening UNU's presence in Europe.

UNU as a degree-granting institution

In December 2009, the UN General Assembly amended the UNU Charter to make it possible for UNU to "grant and confer master's degrees and doctorates, diplomas, certificates and other academic distinctions under conditions laid down for that purpose in the statutes by the Council."[12]

In 2013, the UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP) in Tokyo announced its intention to seek accreditation from the National Institution for Academic Degrees and University Evaluation (NIAD-UE), which is the Japanese accreditation agency for higher education institutions.[13] In 2014, UNU-ISP was consolidated with UNU Institute of Advanced Studies in Yokohama to form the UNU Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS).[14] UNU-IAS was formally accredited in April 2015, making it the first international organization to be recognized by the NIAD-UE.[15]

In 2014, UNU-MERIT, in collaboration with Maastricht University, started to grant a double-degree Master of Science in Public Policy and Human Development. In 2018, the programme was re-accredited by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO) and received the official EAPAA accreditation by the European Association for Public Administration Accreditation.[16]


The university has several campuses spread over five continents. Its headquarters are located at the UNU Centre in Tokyo, Japan.

United Nations University is located in Earth
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur
New York
New York
Locations of UNU campuses


The role of the UN University is to generate new knowledge, educate, enhance individual and institutional capacities, and disseminate its useful information to relevant audiences. Between 2020 and 2024, the University will be guided by the following four overarching objectives:[17]

  1. Pursue policy-relevant programming: by continuing to make policy considerations central to its research programmes and, in addition, actively shaping policy agendas through targeted and strategic collaborations.
  2. Invest in a dynamic, innovative, and diverse institutional culture: by encouraging innovation in all dimensions of the University's work, which is undertaken by a diverse and gender- balanced community of scholars, communicators, and management professionals, and by promoting collaboration across spatial and disciplinary boundaries.
  3. Strengthen collaboration, communications, and visibility: by leveraging the expertise and networks spread across the UNU system, promoting collaboration, impactful communications undertakings, and ensuring that UNU research meets actual demands.
  4. Strive for financial sustainability across UNU's architecture: by addressing the financial constraints that would otherwise undermine ambitious, long-term, research planning, and ensure through participatory management practices that fundraising objectives are realistic, achievable, and complement other strategic priorities.

As prescribed in the United Nations University Strategic Plan 2020–2024,[17] the UN University's academic work fall within three thematic areas:

Collectively, these thematic clusters define the programme space within which the UN University undertakes its academic activities. Some key perspectives (such as gender equality, human rights and sustainability) pervade all aspects of the UN University's work.

Institutes and programmes

The academic work of the United Nations University is carried out by a global system of Institutes, Operating Units, and Programmes located in 12 countries around the world.[18]


Operating units



See also


  1. ^ "UNU Work Programme and Budget Estimates" (PDF). United Nations University. n.d. Retrieved 22 December 2023.
  2. ^ a b c "United Nations University: Annual Report 2021" (PDF). United Nations University. n.d. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  3. ^ "About UNU – United Nations University". unu.edu. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  4. ^ "FAQ – United Nations University". unu.edu. Retrieved 2 December 2019.
  5. ^ "Prof. Tshilidzi Marwala Begins Term as United Nations University Rector | United Nations University". UNU | United Nations University. Retrieved 9 June 2023.
  6. ^ "United Nations University Prepares to Bid Farewell to Two-term UNU Rector David M. Malone | United Nations University". UNU | United Nations University. Retrieved 9 June 2023.
  7. ^ "UNU Council". unu.edu. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
  8. ^ "UNU Council". United Nations University.
  9. ^ "Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization". www.unesco.org. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  10. ^ "UNU". un.org.
  11. ^ United Nations General Assembly Session 24 Resolution 2573. International university A/RES/2573(XXIV) 13 December 1969. Retrieved 2 May 2008.
  12. ^ "UNU Charter". unu.edu.
  13. ^ "Jobs | UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace". Archived from the original on 22 September 2013. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  14. ^ "About UNU-IAS - Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability". ias.unu.edu. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  15. ^ "UNU-IAS Accredited by the National Institution for Academic Degrees and University Evaluation". unu.edu. 1 May 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  16. ^ "UNU-MERIT » Master of Science in Public Policy and Human Development".
  17. ^ a b "United Nations University Strategic Plan 2020-2024" (PDF).
  18. ^ "UNU System - United Nations University". unu.edu. Retrieved 23 June 2022.
  19. ^ "UNU-EHS". unu.edu.
  20. ^ "UNU-FLORES Dresden". unu.edu.
  21. ^ "Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability". unu.edu.
  22. ^ "International Institute for Global Health". unu.edu.
  23. ^ "UNU-INRA". unu.edu.
  24. ^ "UNU-INWEH – United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health: The UN Think Tank on Water". UNU-INWEH.
  25. ^ "Programme for Biotechnology in Latin America and the Caribbean".
  26. ^ United Nations University. "UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP)". unu.edu. Archived from the original on 9 June 2010.
  27. ^ "UNU Homepage". Archived from the original on 29 January 2010. Retrieved 29 January 2010.
  28. ^ "The United Nations University Fisheries Training Programme in Iceland".
  29. ^ Geothermal Training Programme. "Geothermal Training Programme".
  30. ^ The United Nations University Land Restoration Training Programme. "The United Nations University Land Restoration Training Programme".