2014 was a busy year for UNU-CRIS! It marked the launch of a number of new research projects, among which the Poverty Reduction and Regional Integration (PRARI) project, focusing on health policies in the SADC and UNASUR regions, but also of new collaborations, such as the one with the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC). Several research projects were successfully concluded, and their findings were published. These include the International IDEA project on “Democracy-building in the regional context”, the Scheldemond feasibility study on “Cross-border regional cooperation in higher education” and the exploratory study on “Collaboration between Zeelandic Flanders and Flanders”.
Meanwhile, the FP7-funded GR:EEN research project continued at full speed. Besides the classical academic productions, this project devoted particular attention to the conduct of a foresight exercise and the formulation of future-oriented recommendations. The future trends reports and the foresight policy brief, which are available on the GR:EEN website, stand amongst the most consulted pages.
Among the major innovations launched in 2014 is the “UNU-CRIS award for the best thesis on the EU and other world regions”, established to the intention of the students of the College of Europe in Bruges or Natolin. The first laureate, Joshua Gartland, received a six-month fellowship at UNU-CRIS.
2014 will also be remembered as the year of the second external evaluation of UNU-CRIS. The results of that evaluation were very positive and are for the whole staff an encouragement to continue to devote themselves to the study of the main facets of regional governance. Equally encouraging was the top position granted to the MSc Public Policy and Human Development, to which UNU-CRIS contributes, in the Keuzegids Master 2014, guide to master’s programmes in the Netherlands.
Since its inception in 2001, UNU-CRIS has generated a steady output and impact and has become recognised as a major player in the field. Indeed, UNU-CRIS has built up a unique expertise and a sound reputation. The ambition should now be to capitalise on those realisations and grow into a leading institute that has a global impact.
We increasingly see a maturation of the field of comparative regionalism. Whereas in 2001 UNU-CRIS was a unique centre with a select group of like-minded centres or groups of scholars, we now witness an increasingly crowded and competitive ‘market’. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in publications on comparative regionalism from a wide variety of institutions on all continents. These centres are particularly interested in regionalism within their particular region, but also in comparative research across regions. This provides a lot of new opportunities for the field of comparative regionalism to mature, and for UNU-CRIS to focus even more on its unique mission to conduct comparative and interdisciplinary research in the field of regional integration. The only caveat is that competition for resources is increasing, but UNU-CRIS has the ambition to continue to be one of the leading institutions in the world and is ready to take up the challenge of attracting external funding to meet its objectives.
Luk Van Langenhove