December 11, 2012 Tokyo
At 19:54 GMT on 11 December 1972, the Apollo 17 lunar module landed on the moon, carrying astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan — the last humans to have walked on the moon. After spending 75 hours on the lunar surface, Schmitt and Cernan rejoined their colleague Ronald Evans in the orbiting Apollo 17 command module and returned to Earth.
Perhaps not as exciting, but 11 December 1972 is memorable for another reason as well. It was on that day, 40 years ago, that the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 2951 (XXXVII) authorizing the establishment of “an international university under the auspices of the United Nations to be known as the United Nations University”.
The resolution envisioned the United Nations University as “a system of academic institutions and not … an intergovernmental organization”, with “binding guarantees, under law, of academic freedom and autonomy”.
Resolution 2951 further stipulated that “the University should consist of a programming and co-ordinating central organ and a decentralized system of affiliated institutions, integrated into the world university community, devoted to action-oriented research into the pressing global problems of human survival, development and welfare … and to the post-graduate training of young scholars and research workers ….”
One year later, on 6 December 1973, the United Nations General Assembly formally adopted the Charter of the United Nations University (Resolution 3081 (XXVIII)). And on 1 September 1975, the University formally launched its academic activities at UNU Centre in Tokyo.
Over the past four decades, UNU has grown to become a global research and teaching organization with 15 institutes and programmes in 13 countries worldwide, And true to the vision of Resolution 2951, rather than focusing on traditional academic “disciplines”, UNU employs a systems-oriented, interdisciplinary, problem-solving approach that integrates the methodological rigour of the natural and physical sciences with the insights of the social sciences and humanities.
As the academic arm of the United Nations, UNU maintains close cooperative relationships with other UN system organizations — agencies, programmes, commissions, funds and convention secretariats — and serves as a bridge between the United Nations and the international academic community.
The University also functions as a think tank for the United Nations system and for UN Member States, contributing to the advancement of knowledge relevant to the role and work of the United Nations, as well as to the application of that knowledge in formulating sound principles, policies, strategies and programmes for action.
Please join with us in celebrating today, 11 December, as the 40th anniversary of the adoption of UN General Assembly Resolution 2951.