The University for Peace and the Sustainable Development Goals


According to the Charter of the University for Peace:

"The University is established with a clear determination to provide humanity with an international institution of higher education for peace and with the aim of promoting among all human beings the spirit of understanding, tolerance and peaceful coexistence, to stimulate cooperation among peoples and to help lessen obstacles and threats to world peace and progress, in keeping with the noble aspirations proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations. To this end, the University shall contribute to the great universal task of educating for peace by 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."

On the basis of this mandate, the University has developed a series of academic programmes designed to fulfill the aforementioned objectives. At the end of the 1990s, then-Secretary General Kofi Annan decided to carry forth a reorganization of the University, so that it could contribute more significantly to new demands in the field of peace and security, and the tasks developed by the United Nations in that field. The new international context and the new framework of liaising among the major international players, have obliged the University for Peace to take the opportunity to reinvent itself and see how it can contribute, effectively and successfully, to cope with these large international changes. With our contribution to the work of the United Nations and our vision of the role of other key actors of civil society - both within the framework of the UN and with our vision of cooperation in humanitarian work and the promotion of important causes for humanity – it becomes essential that we rethink our vision and position within the legal framework of the University and in the context of this changing international system. The contribution of the University for Peace is manifold: providing new generations with the knowledge and skills to influence processes of change in favor of peace within the United Nations system, within the framework of States in different parts of the world, local and global NGOs, and within a number of spaces that require increasingly more specific knowledge about how to address the tensions, threats, and conflicts present in today’s international system. In 2015, the University for Peace underwent a second revitalization to ensure its academic programmes were in line with the fundamental pillars of the United Nations in light of its 70th Anniversary. Today, the University for Peace continues to strive for academic quality, in line with the newly-established Sustainable Development Goals.

The Sustainable Development Goals represent a global agenda designed to deal with development and inclusion. As an academic institution, UPEACE works to contribute to all 17 SDGs from the theoretical point of view, with specific attention on certain individual topics, such as Goal 5-Gender Equality, through our M.A. Programme in Gender and Peacebuilding; Goal 6-Clean Water and Sanitation, through our M.A. Programme in Water Cooperation and Diplomacy in partnership with UNESCO-IHE and Oregon State University; and Goal 13-Climate Action, through our M.A. in Environment, Development and Peace, with a specialization in Climate Change Policy. Furthermore, UPEACE works tirelessly to contribute, in a much more profound manner, to the following Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning

In addition to being verified by the International Association of Universities/UNESCO for its academic credentials, UPEACE has also been a full member of the National Higher Education Accreditation System of Costa Rica (SINAES) since 2008, and began the process of accrediting its M.A. Programmes within this system in 2013. Currently, all M.A. programmes within the Department of Environment and Development and the Department of International Law, have been accredited before SINAES, guaranteeing the quality of their content and their relevance with regards to the mission of the University. The programmes within the Department of Peace and Conflict studies are under review for accreditation.

Our student body hails from the entire globe and, in keeping with the values of the entire United Nations system, UPEACE is an inclusive environment, free from discrimination of any kind. Furthermore, the University provides a variety of tuition waivers for a wide variety of students, in order to ensure a more equal access to the education UPEACE provides.

Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies

In 2014, the University for Peace (UPEACE) partnered with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in developing the DIRAJus Programme (Regional International Law and Access to Justice in Latin America), through the organization of round table discussions and publications to define, from different international and regional perspectives, a conceptual framework about access to justice in Latin America.

The University for Peace, within the mandate granted it by the UN General Assembly “to promote the spirit of comprehension, tolerance and pacific coexistence between nations and help reduce the obstacles and the threats against peace”, considers that matters related to the access to justice represent a way to consolidate the respect for Human Rights and, in this sense, sustainable peace.

The work developed by GIZ and UPEACE since 2014 has allowed the development of a series of activities, including national meetings, focus groups and international seminars in San José, Costa Rica, Bogotá and Panamá, with the participation of representatives from academia, international organizations, and victims themselves, who developed a dialogue oriented towards the approval of a general document that reflects the state of the situation of access to justice in the sub-region of Latin America.

For 2017, the Organization of American States (OAS), through the Secretariat for Access to Rights and Equity (SARE), has joined the work group in the access to justice framework to spearhead new activities that include research, training, and field work in the selected countries to strengthen the impact of the project –framed within the broader Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular goal #16 - and to implement the recommendations rise throughout the project. This initiative will help establish the effective partnership between UPEACE, the OAS and GIZ in developing a platform for dialogue from a perspective of access to justice as a public good, in an effort to ensure that the law will protect the citizenry, not at a choice, but as an obligation of the justice system. A study will also be carried out in select countries (Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico and Peru) about the curricula on access to justice education for future lawyers and legal operators.

Goal 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Goal 17 indicates that “a successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society.” UPEACE works with the United Nations System, National Governments and the private sector, in order to carry out its mandate. At the UN level, UPEACE is an integral part of the United Nations Country Team in Costa Rica, participating in meetings and co-organizing events, and serves as a partner and implementation agency for other UN agencies and entities around the world. Most recently, UPEACE developed a global training programme with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), with the support of the German Federal Government and the Austrian Government – designed to train 150 women in topics related to disarmament, in the cities of Cairo, Addis Ababa, Bangkok and San Jose (Costa Rica).

Within the Central American Region, UPEACE has worked with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Swiss Cooperation Agency for Development (SDC), and the European Union, on a project designed to train judges, prosecutors and public defenders in Honduras on issues of human rights and the rule of law.

In Asia, UPEACE currently partners with the Ateneo de Manila University, with the support of The Nippon Foundation, on a scholarship programme for students from Japan and Southeast Asia to purse a double degree at both UPEACE and Ateneo de Manila University. 

In Africa, in collaboration with the Ugandan Police Force (UPF), UPEACE launched a unique Master degree programme in Peace, Governance and Security in 2016, aimed at senior officers of the UPF. The programme is fully accredited in Uganda and is academically coordinated and implemented by our Africa office, headquartered in Addis Ababa. The programme aims to graduate 40 senior officers every year, the first cohort of which successfully graduated in September of 2017. The programme is implemented at the Senior Command and Staff College of the UPF in Kampala. The programme consciously adopts an Africa focus and is robustly transdisciplinary. Professors come from several nationalities including South Africa, Australia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Germany, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, amongst others. The programme is 60% subsidized by UPEACE, and the remaining 40% of the cost is covered by the UPF.

Also, with the support of the German Cooperation Agency (GIZ), UPEACE develops an ambitious research project on the access to justice.