2015 was not an easy year for UNU-CRIS. First, the Memorandum of Understanding between UNU, the College of Europe and the Flemish Government expired at the end of 2014, and a new MoU has not been signed yet. Notwithstanding this, we are grateful to the Flemish Government, which continued supporting our activities, be it below a threshold of what UNU regards as sustainable. Second, a number of our researchers had to leave UNU-CRIS, and given the institutional uncertainty we could not replace them yet. Third, given that the director’s mandate came to an end, a vacancy for a new director was opened. It was hoped that a new director would take office in October 2015. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
Nevertheless, UNU-CRIS continued to be productive and 2015 marked the start of the implementation of the three new thematic research programmes on the role of regions in global governance, monitoring regionalisation processes, and the UN and regional public goods. The present Annual Report aims to give the reader a feel of what we achieved over the past year. The mandate of UNU-CRIS is diverse. Our core task is to produce academic output of high relevance. But we also try to engage with different communities: colleagues from academia worldwide, policy-makers, students and trainees. Besides, we try to have a local presence as well as an online presence. Assuming a balance between these different tasks and roles is not always easy, but I believe the present reports testifies that – even with the reduced numbers – we managed to do this. Special thanks therefore for all staff members for their endless efforts!
I am also pleased to announce that the efforts devoted to the design of new research proposals paid off as the European Commission awarded a €2,362,500 grant to a project consortium of which UNU-CRIS is a member. The project will study “European Leadership in Cultural, Science and Innovation Diplomacy”. UNU-CRIS will focus on exploring the effectiveness of EU’s promotion of regional and Inter-regional processes in the South through science, cultural and economic diplomacy. The project will be launched in March 2016.
Throughout the year, much of UNU-CRIS researchers’ attention was devoted to the linkages between poverty reduction and regional integration through the PRARI research project, which comparatively analyzes the health policies of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR). The project’s final products are monitoring toolkits aimed at assessing regional policy change and success in relation to health in Southern Africa and South America through a system of indicators. In the course of 2015, a number of workshops were held with a view to engaging with policy stakeholders and testing the applicability of the toolkits. These workshops took place in Gaborone, Johannesburg, Quito and Buenos Aires. Besides, UNU-CRIS conducted a study on ways to strengthen the global peacebuilding architecture and contemplated how cooperation between the United Nations, regional organizations and civil society organizations in the areas of conflict prevention and peacebuilding could contribute to that objective. The research findings were presented in a discussion paper entitled "Strengthening the Global Peacebuilding Architecture Through Chapter VIII" and discussed at the International Conference on "Strengthening Peace and Security Cooperation towards Democracy and Development" co-organized by UNU-CRIS, the OSCE, the OAS and Int. IDEA and held in April in Vienna. This study was commissioned by the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflicts (GPPAC).
2015 also marked the conclusion of the EU-funded Global Re-ordering: Evolution through European Networks (GR:EEN) research project. In the final phase of the project, a dissemination conference and policy briefing event were held in February with the aim of presenting and discussing the four-year project’s research findings. Two collective works were published following the conclusion of the project, namely: a Springer book entitled “Leadership of the BRICS at the Regional and Global Levels” and a special issue in Contemporary Politics addressing “The European Union’s engagement with Transnational Policy Networks”.
As this will be the last Annual Report published under my authority, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who contributed to developing UNU-CRIS into the leading research institute and think tank it is today! I am sure that UNU-CRIS has a bright future ahead as regional governance continues to be of utmost importance for realising the UN’s multilateral agenda…
Luk Van Langenhove
Director of UNU-CRIS