ACUNS @ 30 – History of ACUNS

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Note From the ACUNS Chair
2017 marks the 30th anniversary of ACUNS. Since its founding in June 1987, the Council, its members, its Executive Directors and Secretariat staff have made an important contribution to research, teaching, dialogue and debate on the United Nations system, global governance and multilateralism. In that 30 years, ACUNS has become a global institution, drawing its individual and institutional membership – and its Board members – from all parts of the world. The alumni of our annual Workshop on International Organisation Studies (formerly the ‘Summer Workshop’) have gone on to senior positions in academe and the UN. The annual dissertation prize has recognised original and innovative global scholarship by some of the academy’s best young scholars. Our Liaison Offices are now located in New Delhi, New York, Tokyo, Geneva and Vienna, with many of them building active and well-respected programmes of engagement with UN agencies. And the ACUNS-sponsored journal, Global Governance, publishes rigorous, peer-reviewed research on pressing challenges for multilateralism and international cooperation. This year is an opportunity to look back and to look forward. We will celebrate our 30th anniversary with a special website page, podcasts, e-updates, social media profile on Twitter and Facebook and through dedicating this year’s John Holmes Lecture to reflection on our history and our future. I am delighted to Chair ACUNS as it enters its fourth decade and as it continues to make an important contribution to public debate on challenges that remain as crucial now as they were when the UN was established.

Professor Lorraine Elliott
        Chair of ACUNS

A Brief History of ACUNS

Thirty years ago, in 1987, a group of scholars and UN practitioners came together at Dartmouth College for a conference whose purpose was to create a new organization to stimulate and support research and teaching on the role of the UN system in international relations. There was a shared sense among a number of scholars at the time that activities at the United Nations University and throughout the UN system were not benefitting from research and teaching taking place in universities and research centers. As Gene Lyons, one of ACUNS’ founders and its first Executive Director, noted in his history of the first decade, “Research on international peace and security and on social and economic development …seemed to have little impact on what was actually going on…and there appeared to be a continued decline in research on the UN itself and on the institutions of the UN system.” 


Celebrating the Dissertation Award
In celebration of ACUNS 30th Anniversary, four Dissertation Award winners have provided testimonials on how the award supported their studies and careers.

  • Tamar Gutner (1996) Banking on the Environment: Multilateral Development Banks and their Environmental Performance in Central and Eastern Europe
  • Roland Paris (1998) Consolidating Peace in War Shattered States: The Limits of Liberal Institutionalism
  • Maria Ivanova (2004) The Story of Stockholm, Explaining Global Environmental Governance
  • Elodie Covergne (2013) UN Special Envoy Mediation in Civil Wars: Polysemic Peace, Flexible Diplomacy, and Emancipation of the Secretariat

To read their testimonials click here

“Reflections on the Workshops”

Abiodun Williams
Centennial Fellow, Georgetown University, Walsh School of Foreign ServiceMargaret Karns
Professor Emerita of Political Science University of Dayton; Visiting Professor, University of Massachusetts Boston

To read the summary and biographies click here to view the full post.

Putting ACUNS Together
By Gene M. Lyons
In 1999, founding director Gene M. Lyons wrote an article, “Putting ACUNS Together”, on the origin and establishment of ACUNS. As Lyons wrote: “The purpose was to create a new organization to stimulate and support research and teaching on the role of the United Nations system in international relations”, which stemmed from a declining interest in studying the United Nations system. Lyons article provides a detailed overview of the factors and individuals who were fundamental in the founding of ACUNS.
Download “Putting ACUNS Together”

Founding Meeting, June 26–28, 1987
Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire

For three days in 1987, fifty scholars, teachers, and other specialists from Canada, Mexico, and the United States came together at Dartmouth College for a meeting that led to the founding of the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS).

Photos From our First 30 Years

Founding Director
Gene Lyons (1924–2013)

Our Original Logo

1993 Workshop on International
Organization Studies

Group Photo

Founding Member

John W. Holmes (1910–1988)


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