United Nations University

The United Nations University (UNU) is the academic arm of the United Nations. It bridges the academic world and the United Nations system. Its goal is to develop sustainable solutions for current and future problems of humankind in all aspects of life. Through a problem-oriented and interdisciplinary approach it aims at teaching, applied research and education on a global scale. UNU was founded in 1973 as an autonomous organ of the United Nations General Assembly. The University comprises headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, and more than a dozen Institutes and Programmes worldwide.


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Twinning Concept


Strategic approach

In line with the new UNU strategic plan, one of the Vice Rectorate’ s primary tasks is to strengthen capacity development in developing and emerging countries and to assist the establishment of UNU “twin” institutes. The internal impact assessment within UNU revealed a geographical skew in the distribution of the location of UNU Institutes. While expertise in core challenge areas such as natural resource management, adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change and unsustainable economic practices are available in the more than a dozen Institutes of UNU, most of them are located in the so-called developed countries.

In order to rectify this mismatch between the locations of available knowledge and the prevailing needs for it, UNU has embarked on a process called “twinning” which would imply the establishment of additional campuses of its existing and future institutions. Twin Institutes (indeed 2nd or 3rd campuses of existing ones) should be located in developing and transitional countries. They should be demand-driven and receive in-kind, financial and moral support from the new host countries.

A Twin can be defined as a UNU institute with all the privileges and characteristics of UNU. The main idea that underlies the implementation of a Twin is building true partnerships in research and education and working against brain-drain. Through its Africa Strategy, UNU plays a strategic role in Africa as a facilitator of dialogue, a capacity builder, a provider of postgraduate training, and a promoter of innovation. UNU-ViE is responsible for the coordination and implementation of the Africa Roadmap strategy adopted by the UNU Council in December 2008. UNU activities in and on Africa aim to foster knowledge creation with a strong emphasis on home-grown and participatory “made-to-fit” solutions. 

With respect to postgraduate programmes, the United Nations General Assembly has voted two amendments on 21 December 2009 enabling UNU to offer postgraduate programmes and degrees as well as to have the right to raise study fees. The first Master programme was launched in Tokyo, Japan, in 2010 and the first PhD programme in Maastricht, Netherlands. Consequently, all other Institutes plan to introduce their programmes within the next two years. The goal of UNU’s postgraduate programmes is to have double or joint degrees with local partner universities. Quality control is another important element covered by the UNU strategy. The aim of quality control is to ensure the same level of quality everywhere by developing a handbook in order to define minimum standards. Quality control can play an important role in increasing fund-raising. The following map illustrates potential future Twin Institutes for UNU:


Geographical focus

The Vice Rectorate in Bonn has initiated promising dialogues with countries in South East Asia and Southern Africa to establish the first twins of the UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS). Further geographical considerations for twin institutes are Africa,Central Asia and Central America.