University for Peace

San Jose, Costa Rica
Website: Type of University:Private StudyQA ranking: 9 pts. Languages: Spanish Phone: +506 2205-9000 Fax: +506 2249-1929
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Headquartered in Costa Rica, the University for Peace was established in December 1980 as a Treaty Organization by the UN General Assembly. As determined in the Charter of the University, the mission of the University for Peace is: “to provide humanity with an international institution of higher education for peace 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 ensure academic freedom, the University was established under its own Charter, approved by the General Assembly. UPEACE is not subject to UN regulations and is directed by its own Council of renowned personalities with expertise in peace and security matters. This has allowed the University to move rapidly and to innovate, focusing its new, rigorous academic programme on the fundamental causes of conflict through a multidisciplinary, multicultural-oriented approach.

The wider mission of the University should be seen in the context of the worldwide peace and security objectives of the United Nations. The central importance of education, training and research in all their aspects to build the foundations of peace and progress and to reduce the prejudice and hatred on which violence, conflict and terrorism are based is increasingly recognized. The Charter of the University calls for UPEACE “to 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 related to peace”.

Funding of UPEACE programmes comes from the support of a number of donor governments, foundations and institutions who believe in the mission of the University. Fundraising for an endowment fund is in progress.

The vision of UPEACE is to become a network of collaborating UPEACE centres and activities in different regions, guided from its headquarters in Costa Rica and cooperating with a large number of universities, NGOs and other partners on education and research for peace.

  • Department of Peace and Conflict Studies

    The Department of Peace and Conflict Studies is an integrated grouping of programmes that affiliate, interrelate and synergize around core themes and perspectives in conflict analysis and the challenges to peacebuilding. The programmes share a common goal of providing a critical understanding and analysis of root causes of conflicts and violence in diverse local, national, global and societal contexts, while specifically focusing on various dimensions, strategies, sectors, institutions and levels of conflict resolution and transformation to build a peaceful world. 

  • Department of Environment and Development

    The Department of Environment and Development focuses on efforts to reconcile poverty alleviation withenvironmental protection in a manner that contributes to peaceful conflict resolution. We emphasize sustained critical analysis in order to formulate solutions that do not just deal with surface issues but address the root causes of environmental problems and underdevelopment. Our approach is grounded in political ecology, an interdisciplinary perspective that highlights the importance of political economic structures and inequality in access to resources as key drivers in environmental conflict and global environmental change. Our teaching, based in principles of peace education, promotes student-centered learning and active participation through collaborative discussion. We take full advantage of our unique location in Costa Rica by including within all of our courses case studies and field visits to explore the many innovative sustainable development projects occurring throughout the country.

  • Department of International Law

    The M.A. Programmes in International Law provide students with a rigorous understanding of the role of law in today’s complex global society. Though international law has a long history, the last century has seen an impressive expansion of the role of law and legal institutions in international and transnational relations, involving not just states, but an increasing array of various types of actors. Our Masters Programmes provide an introduction to this dynamic field as well as the opportunity to gain a solid and critical understanding of public international law and its various underpinnings. Aside from a focus on the foundational principles and values of the international legal system, various courses deal with the broad range of international institutions that play a pivotal role in the development of international law as well as in its implementation and enforcement. Our courses are taught by faculty with rich international experience, as well as by visiting professors from prestigious universities and key international organizations (UN, UNHCR, ICRC, etc.) Our faculty has long-standing experience in teaching both lawyers and students from different disciplines. The in-class experience offers an exciting and diverse environment, with students hailing from all over the world and a broad range of backgrounds.

Costa Rica abolished the death penalty in 1882, and its army in 1948. Since 1865, Costa Rica has offered asylum to those facing persecution for political reasons. From 1907 to 1918, Costa Rica hosted the Central American Court of Justice, which was the first permanent international tribunal that allowed individuals to take legal action against states on international law and human rights issues. In that tradition, efforts to establish the University for Peace began at the United Nations under the leadership of the President of Costa Rica, Rodrigo Carazo. On the 5th of December, 1980, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted resolution 35/55 which sets out in its annex the International Agreement for the Establishment of the University for Peace. The Charter of the University forms part of that agreement.

As part of the continuing process of United Nations reform, former UN Secretary-General Annan took a number of measures since early 1999 to reorganize, strengthen and more fully internationalize the University for Peace - so as to enable it to contribute more effectively to the peace and security objectives of the United Nations.

The Council has defined an innovative programme of education, training and research for peace - focused on key issues, including conflict-prevention, human security, human rights, environmental security and post-conflict rehabilitation.

The University for Peace (UPEACE) programmes offer study in a variety of areas related to Peace, Environment, International Law, Gender, and Education.  Both UPEACE students and faculty come from all around the world with diverse backgrounds and interests which significantly enhances the academic environment. 

UPEACE looks for highly motivated individuals who are committed to social change. There is no one formula for being admitted to our programmes.

UPEACE seeks cultural diversity as well as variety in both educational background and work experience amongst our students. Although there are no specific GPA requirements, demonstrated academic excellence is a must for all programmes. Our alumni come from a variety of disciplines including but not limited to education, social and natural sciences, humanities, international affairs, and law. Previous cross cultural involvement and work experience in fields related to the area of study you wish to pursue are also desirable.

The University for Peace (UPEACE) was established as a Treaty Organization with its own Charter in an International Agreement adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in Resolution 35/55 of 5 December 1980. This unique history of UPEACE makes it the only University in the world created through a UN General Assembly Resolution with the specific mandate of "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." As a result, it possesses a unique global legal authorization to grant Master and Doctorate degrees as conferred upon it by the resolution that created it as well as by the International Agreement for the Establishment of UPEACE and the accompanying Charter annexed to Resolution 35/55.

The UPEACE Charter, in its Article 15.2, states that: “The University shall, inter alia, grant master’s degrees and doctorates under terms and conditions established by the Council”.

Within the legal mandate conferred upon by the UPEACE Charter, included as an annex of the UN General Assembly Resolution 35/55, there are three different juridical situations that arise from UPEACE’s legal authorization to issue Master and Doctoral degrees:

1. States Parties to the International Agreement for the Establishment of UPEACE. In accordance with the UN Legal Office database, 40 states are parties to the foundational treaty of the University. These groups of States formally recognize the legal capacity of UPEACE to issue postgraduate degrees at the Master and Doctorate levels. This legal authorization is part of the international and internal law of the States parties to the International Agreement for the Establishment of UPEACE. As a result, for this particular group of countries, UPEACE degrees are internally legally recognized by the States.

2. Non-Signatory States to the treaty of UPEACE. The resolution that created UPEACE was not required to be voted upon at the General Assembly; it was accepted by consensus and there were no votes against the Resolution. As a result, no country in the world either legally rejects or is able to legally reject the legal authorization that UPEACE possesses as a unique international academic entity with the capacity to issue degrees at Master and Doctorate levels. The legal authorization is part of international law obligations on all States flowing from the status of UN General Assembly Resolutions of this nature.

3. UPEACE host country. The International Agreement for the Establishment of the University for Peace, Art. 3, states that the host country needs to provide “such legal capacity and facilities and shall enjoy such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the exercise of its functions and the fulfilment of its purposes”. On March 29 1982, a Headquarters Agreement was signed between UPEACE and the Government of Costa Rica, recognizing expressly, in its second article, “the juridical personality to enable it to fulfil its purposes and objectives.” This legal authorization allows UPEACE to grant postgraduate degrees and also to become a full member of the National System of Higher Education Accreditation of Costa Rica (SINAES).

Degrees by UPEACE are verified by the International Association of Universities/UNESCO for their academic credentials as having been obtained from an educational institution that is recognised or sanctioned by a competent national authority. The inclusion of UPEACE in the IAU/UNESCO list can be verified from their official database (under its official name in English – University for Peace) as well as from the careers portal of the UN (under its official name in Spanish - Universidad para la Paz).  

Thousands of individuals, from virtually every country in the world, have graduated from UPEACE with Master and Doctorate degrees and have completed short courses and individual training programmes over the years. UPEACE Alumni are working in government agencies, international and non-governmental organizations, and have pursued further academic studies and individual careers to advance worldwide peace. In particular, hundreds of UPEACE alumni are working within the UN system.

In addition to the international legal validity of degrees granted by UPEACE, since 2008, UPEACE has also been a full member of the National Higher Education Accreditation System of Costa Rica (SINAES), and began the process of accrediting its M.A. Programmes within this system in 2013. It is important to note that this accreditation within the Costa Rican system is not retroactive and applies only to those degrees obtained after the programme was accredited.

Currently, the following UPEACE M.A. Programmes have been accredited by SINAES:

  1. Department of Environment and Development. The M.A. Programmes within the Department of Environment and Development, with the exception of the M.A. in Responsible Management and Sustainable Economic Development, have been accredited before SINAES (effective date: March 2014).
  2. Department of International Law. The M.A. Programmes within the Department of International Law were accredited by SINAES in June 2016.
  3. Department of Peace and Conflict Studies: The M.A. Programmes within the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies are in the process of preparing the required documentation and will submit its programmes for accreditation in 2017. SINAES' decision should be forthcoming in late 2017 for these M.A. Programmes.

It is important to note that according to the rules established by the National Higher Education Accreditation System (SINAES), accreditation by it is NOT retroactive once it is granted and is valid for each programme as of the date on which SINAES announces it.


The vision of the University for Peace is to be a forward-thinking, transformational and inspirational educational institution dedicated to the goals of quality teaching, research and service for serving humanity in building a peaceful world.

Established as a Treaty Organization with its own Charter in an International Agreement adopted by the UN General Assembly in Resolution 35/55 of 5 December 1980, the University for Peace has the mission:

"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".

The Charter of the University sets out in its appendix the following general principles:

  1. The persistence of war in the history of mankind and the growing threats against peace in recent decades jeopardize the very existence of the human race and make it imperative that peace should no longer be viewed as a negative concept, as the end of conflict or as a simple diplomatic compromise, but rather that it should be achieved and ensured through the most valuable and most effective resource that man possesses: education.
  2. Peace is the primary and irrevocable obligation of a nation and the fundamental objective of the United Nations; it is the reason for its existence. However, the best tool for achieving this supreme good for humankind, namely education, has not been used.
  3. Many nations and international organizations have attempted to attain peace through disarmament. This effort must be continued; yet facts show that man should not be too optimistic as long as the human mind has not been imbued with the notion of peace from an early age. It is necessary to break the vicious circle of struggling for peace without an educational foundation.
  4. This is the challenge that now faces all nations and all men as the twenty-first century approaches. The decision must be made to save the human race, which is threatened by war, through education for peace. If education has been the instrument of science and technology, there is all the more reason to use it to achieve this primary right of the human being.
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