The Yale Center for International and Area Studies will lose a prominent United Nations think tank this summer to Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada.
The Academic Council on the United Nations System, or ACUNS, changes its headquarters every five years. With approximately 900 members from over 50 countries, ACUNS brings visiting scholars and officials together to study international organizations, particularly the United Nations, and other international issues. At Yale, ACUNS has sponsored a number of lectures, workshops and seminars on topics ranging from civil war in Sierra Leone to the teaching of international relations.
“We’re hoping that [the move] will symbolize a greater image for ACUNS as a totally international organization,” ACUNS Executive Director Jean Krasno said. “We want people to think of us as not just U.S.-based, with a U.S. point of view.”
Before it moves to Canada, ACUNS will host a final two-week workshop at Yale this summer on human rights. The 25 scholars from around the world will mostly be young international lawyers or international relations students. Krasno said the make-up of the seminar is such because the organization seeks to encourage greater dialogue between the two groups.
While some of the think tank’s programs, such as the human rights workshop, have highly selective admissions, seminars held in the spring and fall are generally open to the Yale community.
Krasno said United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, one of the think tank’s founders, has influenced the think tank’s goals.
“[Annan] thought that there ought to be more sharing of information between academics and people who were out in the field trying to manage peacekeeping operations,” Krasno said.
ACUNS provides valuable educational opportunities as it lets students work with visitors who have real-world diplomatic experience, YCIAS Associate Director Nancy Ruther said.
“They’re a good bridge between the practicalities of the [United Nations] and our broader study of it and other international organizations,” Ruther said. “We will certainly miss that bridging function.”
ACUNS moves every five years in order to maintain its independence and to benefit from intellectual offerings in different locations, Krasno said. Since its beginning in 1987, ACUNS has been headquartered at Dartmouth College and Brown University, in addition to Yale.
“The board of directors is wise to move it from campus to campus because we also contribute to them intellectually, and every campus has a different environment and set of intellectual strengths,” Ruther said.
Krasno said the Canadian attitude towards the United Nations will also benefit ACUNS.
“Canada will be very supportive of all sorts of activities related to the [United Nations],” Krasno said. “We’ve kind of had to fight for that here.”