Author: Christina Hitrova
ACUNS or the Academic Council on the United Nations Systems is a global network of research institutions, practitioners and scholars that is focused on stimulating, supporting, and disseminating intercultural and multilateral academic studies of the United Nations, their activities and new topics in the areas of international development, cooperation, human rights and diplomacy.
The ACUNS regularly organizes different conferences, projects and workshops to encourage young, as well as old to participate more actively in the work of the UN and stay informed. Unfortunately, not many are aware of the existence of this organization and even less realize its importance. From January 8, 2013 until January 11, the ACUNS held its big annual conference, this year on the topic “Have the United Nations Agencies Adapted to the 21st Century”. The conference took place in the International Atomic Energy Agency office in Vienna International City and welcomed more than 240 people audience from 45 different countries.
Eight different sessions and panels of distinguished experts held discussions on topics ranging from nuclear technology and sustainable development, nuclear safety and security to uses and misuses of UN data sets and the rise of the global South. A variety of experts, diplomats, UN civil servants and NGO representatives participated in the panels and spoke of the possibilities and dangers of the future, as well as the structures of the UN agencies to face them.
Many students were seen in the audience and this encouraged discussions even after the sessions themselves. ACUNS works very closely with and for students and provides many bright possibilities for young volunteers for the organization. Besides receiving the possibility to participate in conferences, such as this, volunteers are actively involved in research on a variety of topics. Some of the current focuses of the program of the Council are the horrible practice of femicide, the murdering of a woman, because she is a woman, especially in Southeast Asia, as well as trafficking of people and the gradual abolition of the death penalty.
Unfortunately, not many students are aware of the wonderful possibilities that ACUNS can provide for them, nevertheless, the Council has a stable basis of hard-working and motivated volunteers and continues to work for the development of knowledge and awareness on a variety of topics connected to the work of the United Nations. For the future, ACUNS is preparing a variety of events all over Europe. Here are some of the plans:
Side-events at the Commission on the Status of Women (March 4-15, New York) Side-events at the CND (March 11-15, Vienna) Conference for the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (April 22-26, Vienna) Global Congress on the Abolition of the Death Penalty (June, Madrid) ACUNS Annual Meeting (June, Lund, Sweden) The Danube Upstream Events: Concert «Four Glorious Seven» (31 January) and Rabbi and Mufti Concert (28 February) The Inter-generational Learning Symposium on International Environment Day (June 5) Regional Academy Prague (academic year 2013-2014) Young Scholars Conference (next annual conference)
The event for the Conference for the Commission on Crime Prevention on Criminal Justice is especially interesting and will involve topics such as wildlife crime prevention, life imprisonment, solitary confinement, women in prison and children of prisoners. For those, who wish to visit some of the organized conferences or symposiums, the webpage http : //acuns.org/category/projects-programs/ would be of great help.
For some events registration is required and usually it is for free, however note that sometimes a fee may be paid. If so, this will be indicated on the website. Nevertheless, for those passionate about international politics and current cultural, social and economic issues, the money would be worth it. Furthermore, the ACUNS Regional Academy can be especially appealing to students wishing to educate themselves more in the workings of the UN and different diplomatic and political skills. If you are interested, you should definitely look into it on the website of the Vienna Liaison of ACUNS.
This article is intended not only as an appreciation of the efforts of the ACUNS leaders and it’s members, but also as hopefully a tool of providing more information to the people living and studying in Vienna. As a truly great possibility for both personal and professional development, it is a pity that this organization has not received more publicity in recent years. Vienna, as one of the cities hosting a United Nations central office, is one of the best places in the world to gather knowledge about the work of the United Nations. The more people know about this possibility and are actively interested in it, the more possibilities there will be.