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 through its 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's and Doctoral 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, 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 established by the UPEACE Charter, there are three different legal situations related to the University's legal authority to issue Master's 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 currently parties to the foundational treaty of the University for Peace. These States formally recognize the legal capacity of UPEACE to issue post-graduate degrees. This legal authorization stems from each State's explicit signature of the International Agreement for the Establishment of the University for Peace. As a result, all 40 states must legally recognize the validity of UPEACE degrees.
2. Non-Signatory States Parties to the International Agreement for the Establishment of UPEACE: The resolution that created UPEACE did not require every States Party to issue a vote, and was accepted by consensus, with zero votes against it. As a result of this consensus, no UN Member State should question the validity of a UPEACE degree or the legal authorization that UPEACE possesses to issue these post-graduate degrees.The legal authorization is part of the international law obligations that pertain to all States, flowing from the status of UN General Assembly Resolutions of this nature.
3. UPEACE Host Country: In its Article 3, the International Agreement for the Establishment of the University for Peace states that the host country needs to provide “such legal capacity and facilities as are necessary for the exercise of its functions and the fulfilment of its purposes.” On 29 March 1982, a Headquarters Agreement was signed between UPEACE and the Government of Costa Rica, expresslty recognizing, through its second article, “the juridical personality to enable it to fulfil its purposes and objectives.” This legal authorization allows UPEACE to grant post-graduate degrees in Costa Rica and allowed the University for become a full member of the National System of Higher Education Accreditation of Costa Rica (SINAES for its name in Spanish) in 2008. It is important to note that accreditation in Costa Rican is not mandatory and not retroactive, and applies only to those degrees obtained after the programme was accredited, as announced by SINAES.
Degrees by UPEACE are verified by the International Association of Universities/UNESCO 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 career portal of the UN (under its official name in Spanish - Universidad para la Paz).
Currently, the following UPEACE M.A. Programmes have been accredited by the National System of Higher Education Accreditation of Costa Rica (SINAES):
- 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).
- Department of International Law: The M.A. Programmes within the Department of International Law were accredited by SINAES in June 2016.
- 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 for accreditation.