Update from an Alumni Rep on the 25th Session of the UPEACE Council




7 July 2015. University for Peace Campus - The Twenty-Fifth Session of the UPEACE Council commenced with a degree of scepticism but ended on a note of optimism. This first element – the scepticism – should be of no surprise to anyone familiar with the various crises plaguing the University over the last year and half or more. No doubt, many Alumni reading this brief still share this general sentiment. However, the fact that the meeting ended on a note of optimism should not be lost on anyone and it is my hope to help alleviate our shared angst so that we, as Alumni, can once again be confident in UPEACE and help re-launch UPEACE into a new era.

If you are reading this, right now you probably have one question: What has really changed? First and foremost, the academic reforms drafted by the UPEACE faculty, students, and Alumni have been adopted, and moreover, there is an emerging framework for action – one that is more inclusive, representative and includes benchmarks for achieving the various goals set by the Council and UPEACE. More generally, when it came to academics, the Council preferred to deal with the “big-picture” questions. They took pains to ensure the proposed reforms would ensure the ‘UPEACE experience’ remained fundamentally intact and that necessary efforts streamline the academic programmes would not jeopardize the quality of a UPEACE education in the short-term.

Of course, the crises at UPEACE has been, in no small part, a crises of leadership. Can Alumni and other stakeholders truly count on the Council and UPEACE leadership to charter the University out from the treacherous waters into which the former Council once led us? The answer here is more nuanced and only time can tell, but after participating in hours of discussions with the Council and the other representatives at the table I’m confident the current leadership, with a few new faces at the Council table – such a Mrs. Alicia Barcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC – can together restore and revitalize UPEACE. Furthermore, the Council enjoyed the active participation of the Director of the office of the UN Secretary General’s Chef du Cabinet, Mr. Fernando Blasco. These newest additions to the Council not only have the credentials to oversee the changes needed at UPEACE, but they possess the ambition, capacity and passion to facilitate such change. It’s worth noting the new members joined the Council knowing the ugly realities facing the institution yet nevertheless committed themselves to reviving it. As their CVs are in no needed of padding and few of us would be envious of their rigorous schedules, they joined the Council because, like the Alumni, students and faculty, they too can see the promise and potential of UPEACE. Moreover, they believe it is still possible to create an institution in keeping with the noble mission of UPEACE, not only as envisioned by the UNGA nearly three decades ago, but also how UPEACE is understood and envisioned by all of its stakeholders.

It goes without saying that our ‘vision’ for UPEACE is contingent of both the short-term viability and long-term sustainability of the institution. The Council has decided to pursue a multi-year and multi-pronged approach to achieve financial sustainability – a plan that goes way beyond relying on tuition payments and includes re-establishing relations with signatory States of the UPEACE Charter and pursing a campaign to “re-launch” the University at the UNGA this fall, with the intention of earning the recognition and financial relationships that are a prerequisite to sustaining UPEACE. Also, accreditation is being pursued on multiple levels in an effort to expand recognition for UPEACE programmes. The take-away is that the Council sees the great potential of UPEACE and they’re ready to ensure our Member States and others donors realize the tremendous value of UPEACE to the world.

In the next few months, I’ll continue to contribute to the forums of the alumni community on activities stemming from this most recent Council meeting. I believe improved communication between UPEACE leadership and all stakeholder groups is essential for the University as it moves ahead. Please stay tuned and message/email me with particular concerns as I’ll work on addressing them as soon as possible. You can contact me at jbesbris@gmail.com.


Cheers and many thanks,

Jeremy Besbris

IPS 2013