2008 UNSA Business Meeting in Vienna

Results of the UNSA Business Meeting on November 23, 2008, in Vienna

15 participants - representing ACUNS, the University of Vienna (various faculties), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the University of Montenegro, the European University in Skopje, and the Austrian Science and Research Liaison Office Ljubljana - met at the Juridicum (Law School Building) on Sunday, November 23, for an informal discussion about UNSA's collaborative effort to develop a joint concept of UN Studies. 

They developed a tentative work agenda for 2009, including:

  • a summer school for the ne(x)t generation, training / using new media
  • a UNSA meeting prior to the ACUNS 2009 annual meeting in Trinidad and Tobago to connect with potential partners from the Caribbean who might have an interest in UN Studies.
  • continued UNSA Dialogues to get to know people from other regions and their perspectives (to follow-up on the colloqium's theme)
  • continued UNSA Discussion via discussion papers and wiki portal to further advance our joint work on UN Studies concept, including theory-building, with the opportunity to publish results in the Journal on International Organization Studies .

Thanks to all who participated in this meeting!


Results of our discussion 

Kick-off: Reviewing the UNSA Dialogues

  • Too ambitious?
  • Too many features?
  • Technological problems?
  • Too complicated?
  • Too abstract topics
  • Suggestions for future topics -> more issue-related discussion
  • Issues were missing in yesterday's discussion

Key concern: How to better promote the need for UN Studies?

  • address diverse audiences
  • get in the voices of the region
  • have phone conferences and featured presenter (15 minutes)
  • initial presentations / thoughts posted on the wiki portal - well in advance
  • the issue discussion is over, then what? How to integrate results into our work?

Proposed solution: Combination of three, complementary tracks of action:

  1. Online conversation to get to learn new views / members' & pracitioners' views - with a focus on (practical) experiences, case studies, issues
  2. wiki portal-facilitated (more academic, theoretical, philosophical) exchange: covering main thoughts of mission statement incl. theoretical aspects of UN Studies -> can be deepened in face-to-face meetings / workshops; try to synthesize / generalize practical experiences
  3. Build knowledge-base of syllabi as input -> provides further food for thought

Related issues / questions raised:

Challenge: build bridge between practice and theory

  • Does this work in the suggested, three-fold proceeding?
  • Who does the connecting / reflecting? Who places the individual experiences and views in the wider theoretical framework?

How to tackle the wide scope of UN Studies?

  • different UN organizations with specific strategy to communicate their message and reach out to youth, for instance
  • invite members of UNESCO to speak on a specific issue
  • translate this input into discussion papers
  • enhance multilingual, multi-cultural dialogue across all disciplines

Learning aspects

  • interest in learning more about different understandings of certain general concepts
  • bring students, practitioners and academics together to learn about different views (on the UN system, various related aspects), different problem understanding
  • think about methodology used in classes, mixture about theoretical and practical approaches
  • importance of awareness-raising, reach out to more regions
  • building a knowledge-base about global governance -> UN system critical part in this effort

Engage and empower the regions

  • teaching in a region with almost no infrastructure -> biggest challenge to act as facilitator / transmitter / (sole) connection between local (students) and international level
  • interested in more cooperation and dialogue, support of all kinds

Enhance communication and discourse in general

  • feedback channels of students doing internships at the UN -> empower students, help them speak up
  • install podcasts as new feature, in addition to bookmarks / tagging
  • motivate people to put more resources and links, syllabi compendium online -> add more content
  • phone conferences covering the entire world -> accommodate people in all time zones
  • record lectures, put audio/video files online and organize discussion around this initial, already existing content

Possible follow-up

  • Regional network
  • Make use of UN infrastructure, in Vienna
  • Build Knowledge-base, use UN's work on terminology
    • -> add links to portal, based on provided list
    • -> add value: multilingual, offer criticism / rating / feedback / comments on link lists, could also be done with syllabi
    • -> ask users for feedback: is this helpful
  • Incorporate philosophical, linguistic dimension -> see track II

Ne(x)t Generation project 2009

  • organize interactive experiment/ prototype to learn from, share experiences with wider ACUNS and UNSA membership
  • connect with the net generation
  • start with face-to-face meeting (Spring / Summer 2009), continued online (dual approach)
  • work on specific issue, facilitated by new media
  • Which students? Which teachers? They should learn from each other
  • we should also include practitioners
  • perhaps back to back to UNESCO Summer School in early July
  • apply for grant in 2010. So start smaller in 2009.
  • incorporate results of the ACUNS annual meeting in summer school idea.
  • have December 4 online discussion on this topic - how to best prepare for Trinidad / the workshop?


  • Caribbean countries offer practical experience
  • offer academic contributions
  • such substantive issues fit best into the ACUNS meeting agenda
  • local university tries to gather regional UNAs

Separate UNSA meeting / workshop

  • continue philosophical / theoretical discussion on UN Studies?
  • use opportunity to network - who is who, and who aspires / does what in regard to UN Studies? Go beyond UNAs, however, and broaden outreach to human rights experts, etc.
  • ensure engagement of participants who cannot attend in person. Use new media wisely, chose technologies that really work (no crackling sound, or disrupted videostreaming). A blog or podcast might work, will be offered by relaunched ACUNS website, and could be used during annual meeting.
  • general meeting focus on regions: Regional initiatives? Role of regional networks? Role models? What defines regional power? How is power distributed?
  • use the discussion papers for a more substantial exploration of UN Studies