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International Relations and Trade

First Global University -- VISTA By James Avery Joyce (Senior Research Associate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy).

The 27th General Assembly of the UN has voted to establish the first Global University to 1)provide internationally oriented scholarship to study global problems, 2) facilitate greater access by the developing world to advanced scientific thought and applicable technology, 3) assist the UN system--delegations, secretariats and programs--availing itself of scholarly resources of the highest quality.

UNU's operative units will be schools or institutes of advanced studies in selected parts of the world. This will foster the growth of existing institutions and help to keep the whole venture decentralized. There will be four categories of membership: 1)institutes established within the UN family to promote advanced studies, 2)institutes of higher studies outside the UN system to undertake advanced studies, 3)national and regional universities desiring to associate with the UNU their graduate schools of international relations or environ mental studies, 4)Fellows of the University appointed by election from among men and women who have achieved high distinction as scholars or educational administrators. They will give the UNU Prestige and image, and will be consulted as experts by University authorities.

Former Secretary-General U Thant said, "The very structure of the University precludes competition or an overlapping of existing institutions and should constitute a powerful antidote for the brain drain". On the negative side the complaints against the UNU from educationalists and internationalist scholars are 1) no students or teaching program, except the possibility that younger scholars could be attached to senior members, 2) just a set of additional think-tanks, 3) big nation states are not burning to have their thinking done for them by strangers--it might be dangerous. On the positive side the UNU will endow the term "world citizenship" with a concrete meaning for those 55% of Earth's population who are younger than the UN itself,

For the first two years the cost of establishing the UNU is estimated at $10 million to be met by voluntary contributions by governments, foundations and individuals. A Founding Committee of 20 experts has been formed to define objectives and draft a charter as a system of academic institutions devoted to research into the "pressing global problems of human survival, development and welfare". It must embody "binding guarantees under law of academic freedom and autonomy".

At least a dozen countries have expressed an interest in hosting one or more UNU units, including Kenya, Austria, India and Japan. The U.S. and the United Kingdom switched from cool reluctance to genuine support; their main doubts were concerned with cost.

This new era in global education was opened in 1969 by U Thant who said, "the institution I then envisaged ought to be staffed with professors coming from many nations and cultures working and living together in an international atmosphere, these scholars and students from various parts of the world would come to understand one another better and gradually break down those barriers between nations and cultures which create misunderstanding and mistrust today."

Whereas there have been many transnational universities and regional universities with broad geographic areas as teaching institutions in various parts of the world, there has been nothing like the new UNU concept.

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