The University for Peace (UPEACE) was established as a Treaty Organization with its own Charter in an International Agreement adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in Resolution 35/55 of 5 December 1980. This unique history of UPEACE makes it the only University in the world created through a UN General Assembly Resolution with the specific mandate of "engaging in teaching, research, post-graduate training and dissemination of knowledge fundamental to the full development of the human person and societies through the interdisciplinary study of all matters relating to peace." As a result, it possesses a unique global legal authorization to grant Master and Doctorate degrees as conferred upon it by the resolution that created it as well as by the International Agreement for the Establishment of UPEACE and the accompanying Charter annexed to Resolution 35/55.

The UPEACE Charter, in its Article 15.2, states that: “The University shall, inter alia, grant master’s degrees and doctorates under terms and conditions established by the Council”.

Within the legal mandate conferred upon by the UPEACE Charter, included as an annex of the UN General Assembly Resolution 35/55, there are three different juridical situations that arise from UPEACE’s legal authorization to issue Master and Doctoral degrees:

1. States Parties to the International Agreement for the Establishment of UPEACE. In accordance with the UN Legal Office database, 40 states are parties to the foundational treaty of the University. These groups of States formally recognize the legal capacity of UPEACE to issue postgraduate degrees at the Master and Doctorate levels. This legal authorization is part of the international and internal law of the States parties to the International Agreement for the Establishment of UPEACE. As a result, for this particular group of countries, UPEACE degrees are internally legally recognized by the States.

2. Non-Signatory States to the treaty of UPEACE. The resolution that created UPEACE was not required to be voted upon at the General Assembly; it was accepted by consensus and there were no votes against the Resolution. As a result, no country in the world either legally rejects or is able to legally reject the legal authorization that UPEACE possesses as a unique international academic entity with the capacity to issue degrees at Master and Doctorate levels. The legal authorization is part of international law obligations on all States flowing from the status of UN General Assembly Resolutions of this nature.

3. UPEACE host country. The International Agreement for the Establishment of the University for Peace, Art. 3, states that the host country needs to provide “such legal capacity and facilities and shall enjoy such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the exercise of its functions and the fulfilment of its purposes”. On March 29 1982, a Headquarters Agreement was signed between UPEACE and the Government of Costa Rica, recognizing expressly, in its second article, “the juridical personality to enable it to fulfil its purposes and objectives.” This legal authorization allows UPEACE to grant postgraduate degrees and also to become a full member of the National System of Higher Education Accreditation of Costa Rica (SINAES).

Degrees by UPEACE are verified by the International Association of Universities/UNESCO for their academic credentials as having been obtained from an educational institution that is recognised or sanctioned by a competent national authority. The inclusion of UPEACE in the IAU/UNESCO list can be verified from their official database (under its official name in English – University for Peace) as well as from the careers portal of the UN (under its official name in Spanish - Universidad para la Paz).  

Thousands of individuals, from virtually every country in the world, have graduated from UPEACE with Master and Doctorate degrees and have completed short courses and individual training programmes over the years. UPEACE Alumni are working in government agencies, international and non-governmental organizations, and have pursued further academic studies and individual careers to advance worldwide peace. In particular, hundreds of UPEACE alumni are working within the UN system.

In addition to the international legal validity of degrees granted by UPEACE, since 2008, UPEACE has also been a full member of the National Higher Education Accreditation System of Costa Rica (SINAES), and began the process of accrediting its M.A. Programmes within this system in 2013. It is important to note that this accreditation within the Costa Rican system is not retroactive and applies only to those degrees obtained after the programme was accredited.

Currently, the following UPEACE M.A. Programmes have been accredited by SINAES:

  1. Department of Environment and Development. The M.A. Programmes within the Department of Environment and Development, with the exception of the M.A. in Responsible Management and Sustainable Economic Development, have been accredited before SINAES (effective date: March 2014).
  2. Department of International Law. The M.A. Programmes within the Department of International Law were accredited by SINAES in June 2016.
  3. Department of Peace and Conflict Studies: The M.A. Programmes within the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies are in the process of preparing the required documentation and will submit its programmes for accreditation in 2017. SINAES' decision should be forthcoming in late 2017 for these M.A. Programmes.

It is important to note that according to the rules established by the National Higher Education Accreditation System (SINAES), accreditation by it is NOT retroactive once it is granted and is valid for each programme as of the date on which SINAES announces it.