I suspect many readers have never heard of UN Academic Impact (UNAI), an initiative of the Outreach Division of the Department of Public Information of the United Nations. This is because the list of participating schools, only identifies six individual law schools, some of which are affiliated with universities. There are many more university members, but the Academic Impact information may not be getting to the appropriate administrators and faculty at the law schools.
Why should we care? Global citizenship is important and many students come to law school today with more global/international experience than faculty had when they were students. Just as the legal profession is recognizing complex issues associated with the need for transnational practice, law faculty are also acknowledging the need to prepare students with the skills necessary for practicing in an emerging global community, including, but not limited to, the development of cultural competencies.
My experience with UNAI has been extremely positive. It has resulted in tangible institutional, scholarly and student benefits. For example, it has enabled me to host an international conference on sustainability at the Dag Hammarskjold auditorium at the UN where law professors from a number of law schools convened in person with various UN officials working on these issues for a conversation what was simultaneously broadcast so people across the world could listen in. Students were in the audience in person and virtually. Because of the connections law schools can make through UNAI, it opens up avenues for our students who are interested in various aspects of international law, human rights, treaties and the like, to engage in a different way with the United Nations. Membership in UNAI is free. Member schools simply agree to support and advance 10 basic principles itemized below.
According to the UNAI website, the effort is designed:
i) To bring into association with the United Nations, and with each other, institutions of higher learning throughout the world.
ii) To provide a mechanism for such institutions to commit themselves to the fundamental precepts driving the United Nations mandate, in particular the realization of the universally determined Millennium Development Goals
iii) To serve as a viable point of contact for ideas and proposals relevant to the United Nations mandate.
iv) To promote the direct engagement of institutions of higher education in programs, projects and initiatives relevant to this mandate.
UNAI is informed by a commitment to support and advance ten basic principles:
- A commitment to the principles inherent in the United Nations Charter as values that education seeks to promote and help fulfill;
- A commitment to human rights, among them freedom of inquiry, opinion, and speech;
- A commitment to educational opportunity for all people regardless of gender, race, religion or ethnicity;
- A commitment to the opportunity for every interested individual to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary for the pursuit of higher education;
- A commitment to building capacity in higher education systems across the world;
- A commitment to encouraging global citizenship through education;
- A commitment to advancing peace and conflict resolution through education;
- A commitment to addressing issues of poverty through education;
- A commitment to promoting sustainability through education;
- A commitment to promoting inter-cultural dialogue and understanding, and the “unlearning” of intolerance, through education.
Of course there are many avenues for UN involvement by law faculty such as UNICTRAL, and a host of committees and task forces. I encourage people interested in global legal issues to check out how UNAI can advance opportunities for your institution.